Pictures from El Salvador

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The real story of the "Night of Terror" (Riyadh, 12-May-2003)

May 12th, 2003, 11:30 pm. I was living alone, without my family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The night was warm, peaceful and quiet, the best time of the year in this part of the world to be awake late night to enjoy the pleasant temperature and the green of the illuminated garden. Because of lack of any person around me I was talking to my cats through the terrace sliding door of my bungalow. When I turned back I felt the impact of a big blast hitting the window front like a thunder. I knew very well this type of thunder from my years during the civil war in El Salvador and checked the remote empty area of my compound with the fence bordering the highway. There was everything as usual there, the lights of the highway, view cars passing by and the sound of the horn of a police car. But I felt it in my guts that this time something happened, something bad, something different and this was not too far away. I looked around and around, nobody was out, nothing was changed but I felt it was different as before. As I heard the sound of another police car I grasped my camera with the black bag which I used for protection against dust and as hiding place against curious eyes, jumped into the cars and moved to the gate of the compound. The guards heard the big bang but did not have any idea what was going on or where it did come from. I told them to be more carefully as usual and to inform the compound management about any unusual happenings this night. They were alerted somehow, knowing that they could only watch and to keep the turnpike closed in the worst case. Nobody of the Philipinos and Pakistanis guards had weapons and if they would have had any at all it was extremely dangerous above to use them against any local criminal, they could pay it with their own life if the police and justice got them. As another police car with blue lights passed by I decided to follow them, but at the second crossing the lights were red an I decided to stop. I followed the direction where the car disappeared but I had no glimpse where there could be a target for some bomb attack. Now I thought I got it, I was in the wrong direction; I turned left towards the huge new luxury Jeddawel compound, where some of my American friends lived. If there was an attack of terrorists than it was there, and so was it. I took the highway and passed the front-gate of the Jeddawel compound. There were some people, police and security there, but the crossing with the traffic lights at the corner of the compound was totally congested with people in their typical white cloths and a lot of cars between. It took me some time till I could pass by, but I saw only huge crowds of white clothed people and there was a strange smell in the air which I referred to the chemicals of some bombs. Now I passed the area and still did not know hat was happened. I remembered the back entrance of the compound where the busses enter and usually visitors from outside. I followed the tracks through the new housing construction area till I was In front of the back entrance where I left the car to check the back gate from a distance of 20 meters. There were crumpled wrecks of two or three cars, burned out and totally demolished in a way that I could not determine it one of the debris remained from one or from two cars. The gate was open and the buildings nearby seemed to be somehow twisted. The guards at the gate moved nervously around, but the situation was not under control. As it seemed there was no police or secret service under the visitors, but nevertheless I tried not to attract attention as I was apparently the only westerner here. I returned and put my car in position to take some photos from the driver's window. It was 11:45 pm. now when I took the photos shown as thumbnails right hand side. I was aware that it was extremely difficult to get good results, but at least I tried to do my best. In this way I got the photos. The next day I was aware that 5 people died at that spot and something more happened that was not published. Some days later I decided to use some of the photos as basis for some digital compositions because of the colors and lines which I wanted to use. I did my work, playing around with colors, forms and movements. When I finished and looked at the result I was frightened. Without thinking of the tragedy that happened at the time of taking the photo the result was an apocalyptical scene with a clearer message as a good photo probably would have done.

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