Friday, September 03, 2004

Soft Targets

So many, dead children, so many. Not collateral damage; the Islamist terrorists meant to kill these skinny legs and big eyes.

They walked into the school with the intent to kill the children.

Alla Gadieyeva, 24, who was taken captive with her 7-year-old son and mother, said the militants displayed terrifying brutality from the start. One gunman, whose pockets were stuffed with grenades, held up the corpse of a man just shot in front of hundreds of hostages and warned: "If a child utters even a sound, we'll kill another one." When children fainted from lack of sleep, food and water, their masked and camouflaged captors simply sneered, she said.

More than 200 dead. Years from now -- for the rest of your life -- somewhere in southern Russia some one of those haunted parents will be bending over a cast-iron sink, scrubbing a pot, and will have casual thoughts that drift to a child's smile. And that man or woman will stiffen with the shock of remembering that his child was terrorized and murdered, and realizing with shame that, for just a moment, he'd forgotten all about that.

It's said there are no great poems written about children; that's wrong, there's one, but it doesn't advertise the fact. Wordsworth lost a daughter, a little girl. Every parent knows this feeling: Something strikes you, something beautiful or magical and the first thought is, "my son should see this!" And you turn to call to the child, come, see, the egg is hatching, look at this flower.

Surprised by joy - impatient as the wind
I turned to share the transport - Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind -
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss? - That thought's return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn,
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.