Explosion at Myyrmanni

By Juha Haataja

I and my youngest daughter were lucky yesterday, Friday, October 11th, 2002. There was an explosion at the shopping center in the suburb of Myyrmäki, in the city of Vantaa, Finland. This text is written one day later to capture the crime which shocked the Finnish people.

Why I was at Myyrmanni

I drove straigth from work to the Myyrmanni shopping center, which is located in the city of Vantaa, near Helsinki. The previous night our youngest daughter had trouble sleeping, and I wanted to buy new batteries for our digital thermometer. This I did at Myyrmanni at about 16:15, and then I drove home.

At home I and my wife discussed the situation of our daughter. We decided that it would be good to have her checked at the medical care center at Myyrmanni, in case she had an ear infection. So, at about 17:30 I drove back to Myyrmanni with our daughter.

Waiting for care

There was a long queue at the medical care center, about 20 people waiting. So, I had to wait over one and a half hours to get to see the doctor.

Due to the previous night I was already a bit tired, and the waiting didn't help any. The first hour of waiting was relatively easy, but then the daughter got restless. All in all, it took almost two hours to learn that she had an infection in both of her ears.

Near the explosion

The doctor prescribed antibiotics and painkillers. When I came out of the health care center, I phoned my wife. The time was 19:22.27. I told her that I'll go to the pharmacy to get medication for our daughter. The pharmacy at Myyrmanni has an own entrance near the main entrance.

When the explosion occurred I was outside the center, about 30 meters away from the entrance and from my car. I had just came out from the Myyrmanni pharmacy (my receipt is time-stamped at 19:39). There was a loud sound, like an underground explosion, and the fire alarm bells started to ring.

I made the correct decision of loading my sick daughter to the car and making room in the parking lot. The first priority for me was to get her home and on antibiotics. I was very calm, perhaps even too calm, considering the situation.

The strangest thing is that my daughter fell asleep at the pharmacy and slept through the explosion. My daughter didn't wake up even when I moved her to the car from the baby carriage.

Getting home

Some cars came out of the underground parking lot and turned to the ground-level parking lot. They generated a small traffic jam, so I had to wait about a minute for the situation to clear.

People came out of the main entrance, but not seriously in panic. Some were yelling for help, but there were already about two dozen people available for helping those coming out.

Later I learned that it took about an hour for all the casualties to get medical attention. The first ambulance arrived at 19:38, three minutes after the explosion, just as I was leaving the street bordering the parking lot.

Getting used to what happened

Some time ago I wrote about random acts. After the explosion I was thinking for a while about terrorists or criminals. But I would never have guessed that this kind of high-profile situation would happen to me.

At home I told about the explosion to my wife, and we opened the television to hear the news. It was said on TV that the roof of the building had partly collapsed. In the first reports the explosion was thought to be caused by gas bottles, as you can see here:

There was a lot of updated information during the evening and night about the explosion. There were believed to be five dead, 10 seriously injured, and 30 injured in all. About 20 ambulances were outside the shopping center, and all the big hospitals in the Helsinki region were on great emergency status.

Here is another image from "text-tv" for those who can read Finnish:

Contacting the closest people

The time of the explosion at the Myyrmanni shopping center was set at 19:36 on Friday evening. The time on my pharmacy receipt is 19:39, so the clock of the cash register must have been a few minutes off.

I phoned my father, and tried to phone my sister about the explosion. My wife phoned her sister, and her parents phoned us. When something like this happens we need to affirm the connections to our closest people.

I was relatively calm the whole evening and night. For some reason I was thinking which is more important, the explosion which almost touched me, or the following news item which affects the world peace:

As Jimmy Carter wins Nobel Peace Prize, Bush criticized about Iraq: "Former President Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his "untiring effort" to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts and to advance democracy and human rights." [Google World News]
At 23:30 it was time to go to try to get some sleep. Our children were sleeping, both having the flu. I hoped the night wouldn't be as bad as the previous one, when we had to carry our younger daughter around in the house to get her to sleep.

The next day

Saturday morning presented a suprise: the explosion at Myyrmanni was caused by a bomb. Police was looking for eyewitnesses who could aid the investigation.

This crime had serious consequences. There was said to be 7 dead, of which one was a child. The number of injured was 80, of which 10 were children.

There was a clown performance aimed at children at the shopping center just before the explosion occurred. There were almost 2000 people at Myyrmanni when the explosion occurred. The criminal clearly wanted to get maximum effects.

I hoped none of my friends and colleagues was injured in the explosion. For those who died or were injured at the explosion, this day was grave indeed.

Media coverage

In the morning I noticed that Pinseri had a collection of (mainly Finnish) links to information about the explosion. The explosion at Myyrmanni was noted also in the international media. Of course, the reporting lagged a bit behind the latest local information about the matter:

Six killed, 55 injured in shopping center blast in Finland: "An explosion in a busy shopping center Friday killed six people and injured 55 Friday after part of the building collapsed." See also Six die and 55 injured in shopping center blast and Finland Blast Kills 6, Injures 55. [Google World News]
Google News had a cluster of information about the explosion at the Myyrmanni shopping center in Vantaa, Finland. At this point the situation had become world news.

What really happened in the explosion at Myyrmanni

(Updated on Sunday, October 13th.)

According to the recent information the explosion at the Myyrmanni shopping center happened at 19:36 on Friday, October 11th. The bomb exploded in the main corridor on the first floor, in the center of the shopping mall, near the lifts and a staircase. There were seven dead, three men, three women, and one child. The suspected bomber was one of the dead men.

People here in Vantaa and Finland are shocked. This kind of crime has not happened in Finland since the last war in the 1940s.

I feel lucky to be alive. I have been following most of the news broadcasts on TV. I have also followed what news are available on the net. I feel a need to discuss and write about this crime,. On the other hand, I'm also exhausted and too angry to feel other emotions.

(The following updated on Sunday, October 20th.)

The name of the bomber was Petri Gerdt. He was born in 1983, so he is 19 years old. He was studying chemistry in a college half a kilometer away from the shopping center. He was living in the suburb of Tikkurila in Vantaa. He lived with his family. He is Finnish-born and acted alone.

It is not known what was the motive for the bombing. Petri Gerdt had downloaded instructions for bomb making from the internet. He used the initials 'RC' to write about explosives on a discussion forum on chemistry. When police searched his home they found instructions and material on making the bomb.

The weight of the explosive was one or two kilograms, and there were about 6000 metal pellets in the explosive. This resulted in massive injuries and lots of damage to the Myyrmanni building, although the heavy structures remained intact. Thus, the roof didn't collapse, as was first believed.

Looking back

(Updated on Sunday, October 20th.)

Over a week ago I witnessed the bombing at Myyrmanni shopping center. I didn't see the casualties, only heard the explosion outside the building, about 30 meters away. Despite this I was deeply shocked, and thought about the bombing frequently during the next week.

The motive for the bombing is still unknown, but the world slowly moves on. News of other and even more serious bombings elsewhere have appeared almost daily. This is the world we live in.

When the unexpected happens, world seems to be split in two parts. The other part remains the usual, the safe world. The other part is a totally new and potentially unsafe world.

This is how I felt after a bomb exploded at Myyrmanni. This splitting of the world is easy to understand for everybody who has experienced a traumatic event: death of a close friend or a relative, a grave injury, or a serious crime.

It takes time to absorb the mental pain of living in two worlds. In the end, the new world will consume the old one. Only now and then you notice the old world surfacing, and you feel the pain once again.