I have been afraid of the bridges from the beginning of the bombing, but I took the train, and NATO boasted that they can hit precisely, to the centimeter. I didn't believe that they would be so heartless to strike the train full of civilians, and then to proclaim us collateral damage. The picture is still in front of my eyes, two rockets, and then a pause, and then two more... There was no mistake, only the intention to kill innocent people.
The exact number of victims of this criminal attack will never be determined because only 14 bodies have been found, while only ashes remained from the others that are missing, among which was a 6-year-old child. Kostic went from Nis train station with his godfather and inseparable colleague Mikic on that 12. April to Tabanovci, around 11 o'clock, they couldn't imagine that they are going to their last journey.
- The locomotive was already near the end of the train when there was a terrible explosion, it was jumping around the rails as if it was a toy, it was a real wonder how it didn't derail, the flames came from all sides... I instinctively wanted to jump out, I looked behind me and I saw that the train was cut in half, the rocket struck the beginning of the second, and the locomotive and the first wagon kept moving on the rails of the bridge. I will never forget the silence that followed, there was nothing alive - remembers Kostic the scariest day of his life.
With his eyes lowered, as if he wants to get that off of his chest, he admits that he gets chills when he remembers that sight.
- We have seen the train burning on the bridge, Mikic jumped out of the locomotive, I went with him to help the passengers when I heard him saying: Here's another rocket.
The projectile struck the bridge and it killed the conductor Zoran Jovanovic who left the train, and it wounded Mikic.
- He was in shock, he watched the rocket going towards him, but he didn't know that he was seriously wounded. I told him that he was hit, I can see the blood on jeans, but he didn't respond anything. We started moving away from the train, Mikic made just a few steps, he couldn't move anymore... I hugged him and I started carrying him although he was twice as heavy, adrenaline is incredible, it was the fight for life. That is when we saw people getting out of the first wagon, they were all bloody, there was screaming, crying... I have seen a military truck up in the road and I called them to drive the injured. When the last passengers entered the vehicle I saw another rocket... I shouted: Watch out. We all got down to the ground, and then another rocket exploded. I have thought that they are going to hit us until we all die - said Kostic while his voice was shivering, who never drove a locomotive again.
He said that the pictures in his head are following him, that is why he changed his job.
- Terror, melted train burning on the bridge, blood all over the place, crying and screaming... It was like the most horrible movie. They say that only good things are remembered, but I can't forget no matter how I try. I know that I am not guilty of what has happened, but I was driving those people. If that hadn't happened, I would still be driving the locomotive - Kostic barely said.
Goran Mikic never stepped in a locomotive again, while he is talking about that April 12th, he is liting one cigarette after cigarette.
- I can't believe that they could bomb the train full of ordinary people, children... This shard that I still carry around in my left leg won't allow me to forget that day, it has missed the main blood artery by several millimeters, if it struck it, I would be among the people who left their bones in Grdelica - said Mikic.
The relatives of those who died in the tragedy hunted the two of them, trying to find out what happened..
- Who knows how many people lost their lives, they got in and out on the stations, no one knows how many people were there in the train, because nothing remains of them - Mikic concludes the shocking confession.
There is no grave for six-year-old Branimir Stanijanovic from the Aleksinac village Prcilovic, the youngest victim in Grdelica, because his body was never found. The boy traveled with his parents Vidosav (46) and his mother Divna (40) on that April 12, 1999, to his grandma in the village Mackatica, near Surdulica, but he never arrived. The family Stanijanovic burned in the train on Grdelica bridge.
Branimir's grandma Kruna Jankovic has been returning to the place where they lost their lives on this day. She was kissing the porcelain pictures on the tombstone and she placed flowers and cookies for his grandson, daughter, and son in law. Her cries echoed in Grdelicka gorge.
- They were going to us in Mackatica. Oh, my, my... If I only buried my grandchild. We have found only my daughter Divna, there was nothing left from my grandson and son-in-law - cried the unhappy old lady. Kruna passed away several years ago and the wife of VIdosav's brother Stojanka preserves the memory of Stanijanovic family.
- Three daughters remained and none of them lives in Prcilovici. My mother-in-law died due to sorrow, and the husband, I am all alone here. I am watching their empty house every day, I go to open the door, I take a look and I cry. I am waiting for their daughters to come here to go to the cemetery and we go to Grdelica - said Stojanka.
Family Markovic placed the tombstone at the place where their family died. Ivan and Ana Markovic, both graduated chemists, married for only six months.
- They were always together. When Ivan received the call for the army to go to Vladicin Han, Ana didn't want to abandon him. She came with him to say their goodbyes. They both died, we have buried them in Vladicin Han - said Ivan's mother Ljubinka Markovic.
The family started a fund in their memory which rewards the best students and pupils. Dragan Petkovic from Aleksinac used to visit this place every year where his father Svetomir was located.
- He went to his birthplace. He was supposed to go on an earlier train but he missed it. I was drafted here, near Predejane. They told me he has died. We have searched for his body in Leskovac, here in the burnt train, but we have found nothing. For consolation, we took some dust into the urn - said Petkovic.
That death place was visited every year by the family of Biljana Ljubenkovic, a twenty-two-year-old pregnant woman who went to Vranje from Leskovac with her fiance to meet his family, but she never got there.
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(Telegraf.co.uk / D. K.)