A day after the bomb attack that killed 14 people in St. Petersburg, residents flocked to the site of the tragedy to pay their respects. Many of them described a sense of unity and told DW they would not be cowed.
It took just minutes for the first posts about the explosion to appear on social media. Having learnt about the blast, people across the city rushed to call their relatives and friends who could have been nearby when a bomb detonated in the St. Petersburg metro on Monday afternoon.
“When I was approaching the Sennaya Square station my phone simply started to ring off the hook. Everybody was calling – my parents, my boyfriend and even friends who I only speak to a few times a year,” said PhD student Natalya Dergachyova, who was on her way home when the attack happened. “The first thing they all were asking was ‘Are you alive?’ At first I thought it was a joke.”
The severity soon became clear. The Russian Health Ministry put the death toll at 14, with a further 49 victims still in hospital. A day later, the full realization of what happened is now dawning on the city.
A city comes together
Alexandra was one of those who brought flowers to the site of the tragedy on Tuesday. She found out about the attack even before the news first appeared in the media. “A friend of a friend was in the train carriage next to the one where the bomb exploded, and a friend of my parents was at the Technology Institute station. She saw people bleeding and had so many horror stories,” the young woman told DW.
Shortly after the blast, all the metro stations in the city were closed. Motorists took to social media to offer to bring stranded passengers home. Some taxi services were also pledging free rides for a few hours after the attack. The closure of the underground system resulted in huge traffic jams across the city.
“A man gave me a lift yesterday, even though it took him five hours,” said Alexandra. Even after the metro started up again on Tuesday morning some motorists were still offering help, she added.
The morning after the tragedy the metro was unusually somber. Marina, a nurse who works in a clinic two stops south of the Technology Institute station, said the train she had taken to work was empty. “I got on and thought: well, people have gotten scared,” she said.
But many passengers insisted that was far from the truth. “It’s not that I’m afraid. I don’t think that anything will happen again, everything was checked,” said Anna, who lives next to the Technology Institute station and takes the metro to work. Pensioner Nikolai is also convinced that there is nothing one to be afraid of. “On the contrary, we must show the lowlife that committed the attack that we are not scared and will resist.”
Later in the day, the metro line on which the attack had happened was partly suspended again after an anonymous phone call warned the police of another possible attack.
Meanwhile, people continue to bring flowers and candles to the stations near the site of the tragedy. “I feel sad, so I decided to bring flowers like many other people,” said Indian student Yuvraj. The young man said he tried to calm down his relatives in India who had called him after hearing about the attack. “I am not afraid to be living in Russia, I trust the Russian army, I have no fear,” he said and added. “I only want to address the Russian authorities: please find those who killed these innocent people.”
Anna, another foreigner who studies in Russia, believes that erecting a spontaneous memorial to commemorate the victims of the terror attack is “very touching”. The 17-year old American said she is not afraid to stay in Russia and will continue to study in St. Petersburg.
Many of those who came here on Tuesday were crying and hugging each other. “I am absolutely not scared, but it is such a tragedy, it is savageness,” said pensioner Inna as she wiped her tears at the memorial near the Technology Institute station. Earlier that morning her relatives took a metro to go to work. “Now I’ll take this metro line too. We will keep living, but how the parents who lost their children in the attack will live is a big question. It’s only compassion and grief that I feel.”