Terror Down Below

by Mark on April 6, 2010

The recent subway bombings in Moscow reminded me of a 2001 trip to Russia’s capital. While attending a trade show, I was assigned an interpreter/guide and a bodyguard. Security collapsed with the Soviet Union and gangs fought over the ruins. Given my bodyguard was a neck-less broad-shouldered giant, I was surprised we took the subway to St. Basil’s and other sites. “It is safer”, he muttered.

Expecting a dark ‘iron curtain’ dungeon, it was surprising to walk into subway station that resembled an art museum. One stop featured bronze sculptures depicting working Soviet citizens accented by wood panels. Another presented arched ballroom ceilings decorated with ornate chandeliers. Each subway station was bright, clean and uniquely decorated. My guide described the pride and sense of security by the travelers down-below as the Cold War and totalitarianism impacted their lives above.

Terrorists bombed one of these underground oases, killing dozens and stealing those precious moments of individual security from all. I grew up fearing Russia with their bombs and atheists. It became clear, during this visit; the average Moscow citizen is religious who both fears and respects America. Now, even their safest haven brings fear.

My lasting impression of Moscow was near the U.S. Embassy at night. We were returning from the Russian Ballet. The embassy was decorated with flowers and lit candles, almost like Christmas luminaries. Six weeks after the 9/11 U.S. tragedies, ‘Muscovites’ still mourned and remembered our victims by lighting a candle before getting back on the subway. Let’s remember to light a candle for them.

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