Trust in humanity restored: How St. Petersburg united in face of terrorism
The Monday’s assault, which left 14 people dead and dozens injured, plunged the central part of Russia’s ‘Northern Capital’ into turmoil. Ambulances and firefighter trucks, police cruisers and light helicopters rushed to respond to the emergency.
In the other direction came tens of thousands of commuters evacuated from the subway system, which had been shut down in the wake of the explosion. The old city center was never designed for this massive influx and stood still.
City authorities did what they could to address the logistical nightmare, rolling out some 150 additional municipal-owned buses to compensate for the Metro’s shutdown. No fares were taken from passengers on buses or suburban trains passing through the city.
For-profit organizations did their part too. The Western Rapid Diameter (ZSD), a brand-new toll highway in the western part of the city, lifted its barrier gates for the rest of the day. Private transport companies offered free rides to people trying to get out of downtown St. Petersburg. The situation impressed many residents.
Убер. бесплатный. Яндекс такси бесплатный, транспорт бесплатный, ЗСД бесплатный. Мы ещё не совсем потеряны.— Алексей Петровский (@petrovskyi104fm) April 3, 2017
(Uber. Free. Yandex Taxi free. Transport free. ZSD free. We are not that lost.)
Even more inspiring, according to people’s comments on social media, were numerous examples of grassroots support and self-organization in response to the disaster. Car-owners who happened to be in the city center or close to it offered freed rides to stranded commuters.
The hashtag #домой (home) quickly dominated social media, particularly geotag-supporting map services.
Слава богу есть Яндекс.карты. Полчаса пыталась вызвать такси, а в итоге с первого коммента на карте смогла подсесть к добровольцам #домой— Нелли (@Lososev_roll) April 3, 2017
(Thank God we have Yandex.maps. I’ve been trying to call a cab for half-an-hour. Then just one comment on the map and some guys volunteered to take me #домой (#home))
отвезу #домой от Александра Невского куда угодно. / 4 места / +79992042749— Владислав Журавлёв (@MrVLADIK) April 3, 2017
(ride #домой #home) from Aleksandr Nevsky [Square] anywhere. / 4 spots / +79992042749)
Some didn’t even need a car to offer a helping hand, as a picture of a biker shared on Instagram, showed.
Others were concerned with how elderly people would manage to get help, since it depended on being tech-savvy.
(There are elderly people in the stations. They have no Uber, or VKontakte [Russian social network] or smartphones! Please, stop and ask! #домой #saintpetersburg)
The outpouring support was not limited to car sharing. Local petrol stations offered free refills to motorists, provided they were willing to give free rides.
Local restaurants and cafés offered free tea, snacks and a place to wait over the chaos to people stranded in the paralyzed area.
People living in downtown St. Petersburg welcomed strangers with a place to stay for the night, should they need it.
(Guys, if you work or study at Vasilyevsky Island, we have plenty of beds, so come! And if your friends have trouble getting off the island, tell them our doors are open. I’m looking at the traffic from the window – there are huge crowds and little chance to use public transport. Please share!)
Горжусь своим городом и тем, что могу ему, как и другие, помочь. Я горжусь тем, что вчера люди доказали что доброта побеждает деньги. #домой— Игорь Лямин (@LyaminII) April 4, 2017
(I’m proud of my city and the fact that I and others can help it. I’m proud that yesterday people showed that kindness beats money. #домой)