Thursday, July 26, 2012

The way we were

Going to the movies has always been my favorite way of escaping the outside world; a magical place isolated from the stress and demands of our everyday life, simply a place to relax and let your dreams guide you. Unfortunately, because of James Holmes, a 24 year old student residing in Aurora, Colorado, we can no longer call the movie theatre our sanctuary. On July 20, 2012 he single-handedly turned a much anticipated movie event into a horrifying mass murder we will never forget. I watched the news in horror and sadness and in the days that followed, when my young son wanted to go and see a movie, realized that this young man had not only taken away the lives of so many victims and their families, but he had also created a fear among us all, a fear of going to the movies, into a public space that was once for many people as myself, a place to escape reality.
I too had planned to go and see the fourth installment of The Dark Knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan, one of the most anticipated movies of the year. In fact, I’ve looked forward to it. Instead I stayed at home most of that weekend watching news and TV. It felt like déjà vu.

On July 22, 2011, a day before a family wedding in Norway, I was waiting for my husband to arrive from United States. I remember it was raining that day as we all gathered at my parents’ home to welcome him. It was him in fact, that came all the way from US to Norway that brought the news about what happened.
“Have you heard the news? Someone placed a bomb in Oslo!” At first, we didn’t believe him. A bomb explosion in small, peaceful Norway? Who would even think about such a thing? A couple of hours later we were all watching the news, still in shock about what really happened that day. A young man named Anders Behring Brevik placed a bomb close to the Congress Building in Oslo which later exploded killing 8 people and injured many more; right after he went to a small island outside Oslo called Utøya where an annual youth event were held. Here he too single-handedly killed 77 people, most of them youth and fatally injured more. 
I don’t think anyone can really imagine how it is to loose someone dear through such a horrendous crime. All we can do is to feel for the families of the victims. These tragic events have created feelings in us that we may not have felt before. For the victims that survived it’s emotional scars that might never heal; nightmares and phobias that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. For the rest of us; fear, suspiciousness and even rage and prejudice. We want to forget and forgive and love the next of kin like there’s no tomorrow. It was a promise of love and forgiveness that echoed through Norway that day July 22, 2011 and the days and weeks that followed. I know, because I was there when it happened. But today 1 year later, I really wonder how much of that promise is left in our everyday life.        

June 25, 2012 I visited the 9/11 Memorial for the first time after the terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001. Despite the long lines resembling at least two security checkpoints, the memorial itself is quiet and peaceful. Two towers, a North and a South, are still under construction. At ground zero itself, where the two original towers once were situated, are now two water fountains. The names of the victims are inscribed onto the stone, and the water is cascading downwards into a hollow center, a symbol of life renewing or repeating itself like water or perhaps nature itself. It’s a graceful monument remembering a tragic event over 10 years today. A lot has happened during that time. Some of the terrorists responsible for planning the 9/11 attacks have died, been caught, executed or arrested and put in prison. But a lot of innocent people have been put under scrutiny as well because of our fear of terrorists. People were angry after 9/11. Others were sad, disappointed, scared, cautious or nervous. Some of us are still many of those things. Because of 9/11 all airport security checkpoints are taking so much longer than it used to, and Homeland Security is making sure that any suspicious individual is being questioned and even detained if needed. But sometimes though, we think about the way things used to be. How much easier and how much more innocent I guess, life used to be; life before 9/11.

This is the way Norway will have to get used to as well; the life before and after 7/22. Unfortunately it’s inevitable. Ask the rest of the world. Ask India, ask UK, ask France, ask Africa, ask Asia. They’ve all been there. And the sad part is they don’t remember how their life used to be before anymore. In India you can’t board a domestic plane unless your baggage has been checked and stamped at least three times and you have been screened separately. Usually it takes longer to board a plane in India than the flight itself. I used to think that all these security measures were unnecessary, but that was before 9/11. Norway before 7/22 was a peaceful country. Norway after 7/22 it’s still considered peaceful. Nobel Price winner Aung Saan Suu Kyi held her Nobel Peace Price lecture in Oslo this year, 21 year after she actually won it. She talked about resilience and hope. And yes, time does heal. But as America and the rest of the world have learned; it takes a decade or maybe more to find peace or even come to justice with acts of terror or crime. Believe me it’s not enough to promise love and forgiveness. Because if you can’t find love and forgiveness, you will not find peace either.
It will take me a few weeks, maybe more before I will even consider going to the movies again. And even though Batman fans went to see the last Dark Knight movie, I won’t. It just doesn’t feel right. And this is what these acts of crimes and terror have done to us: What used to be a peaceful and enjoyable moment is now something I dread. All we can do is hope that justice will prevail and that the security measures that preceeds it will give us a feeling of safety and hope to go on with our lives.Because all we want is to live as close to the life we had before, the way we were in a past we no longer can remember.   

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