|STANDING IN LINE|
We met with our friends and headed for Dolphi. It was eleven, and the guards would not let us come in: too early, they said. We went for a walk and came back. The line was already pretty long by then. Then the guys we came with stepped aside to buy something, leaving Simona and me in the line. We held each other’s hands because I wanted to keep moving forward. We were almost halfway there when my phone rang. The caller didn’t say anything and then he hung up. We wondered which of our friends it could have been.
And then the explosion came. It was sudden — I had never seen anything like it. I saw orange — fire, I guess, I don’t know what it was, but it hit me right away — this is a terrorist attack, and my first thought was, I’m going to die. Second thought was, My poor parents — they’ll have a hard time when they find out.
We got to the Dolphi quarter to eleven — earlier than usual. It was still unusually empty. But in twenty minutes, there was a crowd! A lot of kids — near the kiosk, on the parking, outside the entrance. Must have been about three hundred people.
In the first place, there was no charge at the door. Second, June first was the Children’s Day — an international holiday, by the way. I don’t know how you’re supposed to celebrate it, but many of us decided to go to the disco. Someone was graduating, someone else had his birthday . . .
I went to Dolphi every Friday ever since it opened on November 17. Everybody knew one another. We made a lot of good friends there.
Nadezhda’s mood improved right away. We stood there, chatting and laughing — Nadezhda, Vika, Irina Osadchaya, and me.
Suddenly I saw Ilya. What happened? I asked him, What are you doing here? [Ilya was supposed to go to Yellow due to lack of funds — see above.]
Well, he said, we decided to go to the Dolphi for the last time, and then go to Yellow. And he looked so mean . . .
“Is something wrong?” I asked him.
He said, “We’ll talk later, after the disco.”
“What happened? Tell me now.”
“I said, we’ll talk later!” Then he added suddenly: “Just remember that I have always loved you and always will.”
“Are you sick,” I said, “to be talking like this?”
“You’ve been acting strange lately,” he said.
“I love you too,” I said.
He looked so handsome that day! He had a new haircut, a new red top, new pants, new shoes. I told him, You look so handsome tonight! What is it that you wanted to talk to me about?
Nothing, he said, I was just kidding.
We stood there with Roman, who was quite a Don Juan. He could date all the girls at the same time. He saw someone in the crowd and dragged Ilya along to say hello.
The girls could get in for free before midnight only. Five minutes after, we would have to pay. That’s why there were so many girls outside — the boys let them pass ahead, any girls, whether they knew them or not — so they could get in for free. We were squatting; then we got up. Right now I thank God we got up, because the splinters that hit me in the leg would have hit me in the head.
I was standing at Ilya’s side, our arms touching. He was right outside the door. “Come here,” I said; “I want to tell you something.”
“We’ll talk afterwards,” he said.
When I came up, the girl at the door asked, “How many?”
Ilya turned to look — “a lot,” he said; “maybe twenty.”
Another moment passed. Then I don’t remember what happened. An explosion. I couldn’t sleep for a long time. I would close my eyes, and I would still see that flash. And I had a ringing in my ears.
When we arrived, there was already a crowd. They would open the doors at eleven. But this time they were opening a new room, the third one, and there were some technical problems, so they had to “polish it up.” And so it opened late, about fifteen minutes or so.
It’s hard to be among the first ones to get in — everybody wants to be the first one. But I have friends there, so we always get in ahead of others.
What struck me as odd was the way Lesha [Alexei Lupalo] was acting. Usually he is so straight, so shy, but that night he was really loose — like he didn’t give a damn.
We stood outside the entrance, near the fence. The girl at the door asked, How many? I counted — there were six of us. Okay, she said, c’mon in. And the moment she said it, the bang came.
We met two other girlfriends outside, and the four of us were waiting for the opening. Another four girls came up, and I recognized my childhood friend Anya Kazachkova. I was so happy to see her. She had changed a lot since I saw her last — she grew her hair long, began putting on makeup. She matured — just like I did. That night Anya looked very happy. She was standing with her friends a few feet away from us, and they were laughing all the time.
Then more girls we knew came by; I knew Liana Saakyan, we went to the same school. But I kept glancing in Anya’s direction.
They started letting people in around half past eleven. There was even more noise and laughter. But it was getting closer to twelve, and the girls had to get in before then, so there was a bit of a crowding. We were almost at the entrance, still laughing and making jokes.
They let in about ten people, maybe less, and then there was a sound from behind: a dull but a loud one. Boom. It was almost where Anya Kazachkova and her friends were standing.
I came with my friend Larisa. We were in the line for tickets, and I cried that I didn’t want to go and demanded that we go home. I saw she wanted to leave, too, but then she hesitated: “We traveled this far, and we’re here, so why leave . . .?”
At that moment, my dad called to ask how we were and where we were. I said we were almost at the door.
Then Irina came and said we had to go in, because it was close to midnight.
I said good-bye to my dad, put my cell phone in my bag, and we started making our way to the door. Larisa half-hugged me to whisper something in my ear — and then the blast went off, like a thunderbolt. Something burned my leg. I felt as if I was enveloped in hot air coming from below. And I saw my body separating from Larisa’s. And that’s all I remember. Until the moment when I woke up on the ground.
Sergei, bartender at Dolphi, Jan Blum’s cousin:
A few minutes before the explosion we were shooting the breeze outside the entrance. Then Jan was sent to check out the cars in the parking lot for bombs. He came back, and a few seconds later there was the explosion.
The moment we arrived, Diaz took off his helmet and got off the scooter. Be right back, he said; then he fixed his hair and went to see if Natasha had arrived. I stayed to the left of the entrance and kept the engine running.
She wasn’t there, so he asked for my cell phone to call her. “I don’t have many minutes left,” I said. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll buy you a new card.”
He called her, and she said she was right at the door, near the iron blocks. They talked for a while.
The last thing I remember, he was facing Beit Opera, and then he turned to face me, the phone in his hand, and said, “Victor, just wait, she’s coming out.” And the moment he said “out,” there came this flash from the ground.
We met two other girls we knew outside, Vika [Agurenko] and Irina [Osadchaya]. So we stood about, cracked a few jokes. Then Ilya came up with Roman: “So, are we going in?” “Yeah,” we said; “let’s move on.”
So we started inching forward. Anya stepped aside. I turned around to look if there was someone else from my school, because this was our school’s favorite place.
And then there was a blast. I saw a pink flash on my right side and I heard the girls screaming, and then bodies collapsed on top of me — and that’s the last thing I remember. I must have blacked out for some time.
I said to my girlfriends, Let’s get to the head of the line. They said they didn’t want to, so I said, Fine, but I’m going. And the moment I turned away, there was the blast.
I was standing with my girlfriend a few feet away from my sister, waiting for our turn to go in. Just stood there and waited. And then there was the blast.