Moscow suddenly became a site for citywide PTSD. The city’s subway, which carries anywhere between 7 to 10 million passengers a day, on the day of the blasts only took in a fraction of that number. As 22-year-old Daria Kovtunova, personal assistant at Ernst and Young, put it, "Only those who had nothing to lose" took the subway after the explosions: immigrants, unmarried men and tired Moscovites who could not afford a taxi.
It is not the first time that the metro, the symbol of Moscow’s vitality and mobility, has come under attack. Most recently, in late August of 2004, a female suicide bomber set off an explosive device at the entrance hall to the Rizhskaya metro station, killing herself and nine other people and sending over four dozen to the hospital. Before that the largest subway bombing in terms of casualties was in February of 2004, between Paveletskaya and Avtozavodskaya metro stations: fifty were killed, more than a hundred injured.
Only hours after the blasts, secretaries at a call center of a major foreign consulting firm in Russia spent hours crying and frantically calling their colleagues to make sure everybody was safe. Cell phones were constantly ringing in offices and were sitting in everybody’s lap on the subway, ready to be picked up and deliver the hopefully good news about friends and colleagues. Friends and relatives outside of Moscow too were trying to reach their loved ones, shocked at what they were being shown on TV. My roommate tried to reach her mother on her cell phone and the latter had to step out of the subway panting, her blood pressure rising, to take a breath and realize that neither she nor her daughter were anywhere near either of the two blast sites.
I found out about the blasts at 10 am when I turned on the TV and started to quickly get ready for work. The full extent of what had happened did not hit me until much later. I went to work only to discover the subway a ghost town and to see Russian police officers crowded in front of exits and entrances to all of the city’s subway stations, even those far from the two sites of the explosions.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, cabbies were reportedly taking 3,000 to 4,000 rubles per ride (approximately $100-$135) and traffic jams paralyzed downtown. A helicopter was landing next to FSB headquarters. Its building, which some say was the target of the explosion, stands within walking distance of where the first suicide bomber took the lives of dozens of innocent people. After that, events unraveled quickly: victims were driven, airlifted or walked in to ten different hospitals across Moscow. Part of the affected subway line was shut down until about 6 pm of the same day and 3,500 people were evacuated. Officials encouraged people to take any means of elevated transport. By early afternoon it all looked, sounded and seemed surreal, like a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster.