On 1 September 2004, the children were celebrating the start of the new academic year at School No 1 in Beslan, North Ossetia (part of the Russian federation). They had brought in balloons at the request of the teachers. The fun was grotesquely terminated when an armed group stormed the building demanding Chechen independence. For the next 52 hours, more than a thousand people – parents, grandparents, teachers and children – were held hostage in the school gym in sweltering conditions, forbidden water and reduced to drinking their own urine. 186 children were among the 334 who lost their lives in the carnage of the siege's chaotic, violent and still-controversial close.