Sunday, April 28, 2013

Terrorism victims get their turn to talk in Wrong Time Wrong Place

While North America's attention has been focused on the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers who are allegedly responsible for them over the past two weeks, a Dutch documentary titled Wrong Time Wrong Place examines victims of the much more deadly domestic terrorism attacks launched by Anders Breivik in Norway on July 22, 2011.

Breivik, a far right extremist, killed 77 people when he set off a bomb in the centre of Oslo and then went on a shooting spree on the island of Utoya. The 80-minute Wrong Time Wrong Place features interviews with survivors and loved ones of those who weren't so lucky to escape his wrath, and all of their tales are poignant.

Harald, who had recently lost a son to a base-jumping accident, describes what he went through during and after the bomb blast that rocked his office building. It left him almost blind, but he says he would have been beside Breivik's car bomb when it exploded and would have been killed if he'd gone to his office five minutes earlier.

A young, pregnant Ugandan woman named Ritah who now lives at a Dutch refugee camp describes her excitement about visiting a Labour Party youth camp at Utoya and the fun she had there before escaping death by hiding from Breivik in a bathroom stall. She still dreams of the faces of girls killed on the island and questions why she survived while others didn't. She named her son Michael after an angel who she believes helped save her.

The parents of a young woman named Tamta from the country of Georgia blame themselves for letting her go to Norway, and her mother talks of a prophecy which foretold her daughter's death. They talk of how she always refused to take swimming lessons, and believe she might have survived like some others who dove into the water to get away if she only knew how to swim. She was Breivik's final victim before his arrest and was shot twice from behind by the water's edge.

Tamta's friend Natia invited her to Utoya with her, and they saw it as a chance to go abroad and take on a challenge. She questions why she survived and Tamta didn't as she revisits the massacre scene and concludes that it was "by pure chance."

A young Norwegian man named Hakon was waiting for the ferry to Utoya when he saw a van pull up and a man in a police uniform with guns (which turned out to be Breivik in disguise) get out to board the ferry. He admits that he joked about checking his police ID, and says he was only on the island for a few minutes before the shooting began. He invited Ritah and another young woman named Hajon to hide with him in the toilet stall.

Finally, a Norwegian man named Halvor went base-jumping on that fateful day instead of going to work, avoiding the misfortune of his two colleagues who were killed in the bombing.

Ritah speaks accented English, while the other interview subjects communicate in their native tongues, so you have to pay close attention to the subtitles to appreciate the sad and moving tales they tell. While so much attention is deservedly focused on the perpetrators of horrific acts, it's also enlightening to hear from those who were impacted by them and how their lives will be affected until they draw their last breath.

If circumstances and coincidences were just slightly different for most of these people, that last breath would have already been taken.

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