On the morning of September 1, 2004, the children of Beslan were excited about the start of a new school year. But as traditional festivities got underway, heavily armed terrorists stormed the school playground, changing ordinary lives in the southern Russian town forever. At least 330 parents and children were killed, some in the massive explosions that tore through the gymnasium, some caught in the crossfire of a three-hour gun battle between the Russian forces and the terrorists. This riveting account not only covers the three days of unimaginable terror and suffering that followed, but includes the people of Beslan speaking in their own words about their ordeal and about their lives in this deeply fractured region. The human story of the siege is here—including the terrible toll that thirst, hunger, and sleeplessness took on the hostages, and the bravery of those who dealt with the terrorists, such as the elderly headmistress of the school and the doctor who tried to relieve the children's suffering. This account also examines the authorities’ response to the siege, finding it wanting, and ultimately places the events of September 2004 in their wider context of centuries of conflict and enmity in the Caucasus.