SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Nedzad Avdic felt the blood of the previous victims sticking to his bare feet as he walked with his hands tied behind his back toward the exit of a school to be shot.
The voices of hundreds of other male Muslim Bosnians from Srebrenica echoed from the classrooms as the soldiers demanded that the prisoners chant "Srebrenica was and always will be Serb!" as gunfire killed them one by one outside.
It was 17-year-old Avdic's turn to become one of the 8,000 men and boys killed after the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica fell to Serb forces. As the 20th anniversary of the carnage of July 11-13, 1995, approached, Avdic decided he needed to speak out publicly.
"I just wanted it to be quick," Avdic, now 37, told The Associated Press at the school in the village of Petkovci, where Serb troops brought him and other men caught as they tried to flee Srebrenica.
From the 15,000 men and boys who headed over the mountains toward government-held territory, the Serbs hunted down 6,000 after detained 2,000 others who had surrendered immediately. They were then shot at various sites around the town. The slaughter was the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
As Avdic stepped out of the school and waited for his turn to face the firing squad, he said he saw piles of bodies lying in the heat.
Suddenly the soldiers changed their minds and loaded him and others onto a truck and took them to another site to be shot. As they were taking the men off in groups of five and lined them up in front of the firing squad, Avdic hid behind other men on the back of the truck "just to live for a few seconds more," he remembers.
It was his turn again. He felt the sharp stones under his feet as he jumped out and lined up.
The rattle of gunfire started up again, and he fell face down on the stones, but still felt the pain. He was shot. But not dead.
For hours, Avdic lay motionless among a pile of bodies, listening to killings deep into the night. "I was bleeding and waiting to die," he said.
When another truck left and it became silent, he lifted his head. Something was moving a few rows of bodies in front of him. The other survivor spotted him too and asked him to come and untie him. Avdic couldn't walk but rolled himself over and the two men chewed on each other's ropes to free their hands.
Covered by darkness, they sneaked over the bodies into a nearby forest before the next truck arrived. The other survivor, who Avdic says doesn't want to be identified, tore his shirt and bandaged Avdic's wounds. In the morning, the two crawled up the hill and took another look down on the killing field. Backhoes were loading the dead bodies on trucks which then drove away.
For four days and nights the two men kept moving, looking for government-held territory. Avdic was crawling and his companion was moving ahead of him and clearing the path to make it easier. He begged the survivor to leave him to die but the man begged him back to keep going. The man brought him water in his shoe.
On a Serb graveyard the two found an open bottle of Coca-Cola near a freshly dug grave. They drank it together with the ants in it.
The two never noticed when they crossed the front line, but they eventually reached a Muslim village and emerged from the woods, bloody and exhausted.
He passed out again as a bunch of people were giving him water. But he knew: He survived.