The Moscow Metro is the second most heavily used metro system in the world and, by far, the most beautiful one. With a history dating back to 1935, it is its own ecosystem, containing myths, legends and stunning works of socialist realist art. It has also been repeatedly targeted in terrorist attacks – like the ones that occurred this morning on two especially crowded stations: Lubyanka and Park Kultury.
Disoriented after oversleeping, I didn’t immediately realize that I would have been passing through Lubyanka today had I woken up as planned. Instead, I woke up when my phone began to ring. A neighbour was calling. “Thank God!” Was the first thing she yelled. “Didn’t you say you were going to head north this morning?”
I was. And when I head north, I always take the red line, even when I find it less than convenient. In fact, just yesterday, I had just endured a protracted argument with my mother as to the benefits of riding on the metro to my destination. “But I ALWAYS take the metro,” I insisted. “I HATE buses!”
Even when a bus would technically be quicker, I prefer the Moscow Metro. I enjoy its polished marble, the rocking of its trains, the cheerful announcer voices. When I have my ears plugged with headphones, I like spacing out in the long stretches between the stations and studying my traveling companions. I enjoy it when some guy sitting nearby will take his gaze off his Umberto Eco or Haruki Murakami long enough to flirt a bit, his voice rising as the train picks up speed: “So what is that crap you’re blasting on your iPod again?”
Like many visitors and Muscovites alike, I am in love with the Moscow Metro, and that love is mutual.
On days like today, tragedy does not remain localized. It spreads outward, from the epicenter. Beside the dead, there are the wounded. Beside the dead and the wounded, there are the traumatized. And then there are the friends and relatives of the dead, and wounded, and traumatized. Traffic is at a standstill near the affected areas right now, like a metaphor for shock.
This isn’t the first time that the metro has been the site of terror, of course. Before today, the latest such incident occurred in 2004, when a bomb went off on the Zamoskvoretskaya Line, between the Avtozavodskaya and Paveletskaya stations, killing 40 people.
Gorgeous Paveletskaya station is the one I use every day in Moscow, because it is closest to my mother’s residence. I don’t think about this chapter in its history as I hop on the escalator in the mornings and evenings, and neither, I suspect, do any of our neighbours.
We are not, in spite of anyone’s efforts, terrorized.