Argentine Ambassador Jorge Argüello has seen the photo exhibition “Ese Día” launched in six cities around the U.S., but its recent installation in Atlanta strikes him as particularly impactful.
“That Day,” as it’s translated in English, incorporates poignant portraits of 26 survivors of the 1994 bombing on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA, building in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured more than 300. The car bombing came just two years after another terrorist attack on the Israeli embassy there killed 30.
Of those working in the AMIA building at the time, some hid under their desks when the explosion rang out, later escaping through openings blown through the walls. One was lingering in an office doorway when a truck driven by a Hezbollah bomber hit; if he hadn’t answered a co-worker’s question, he may not still be here.
Yet another AMIA worker lost his brother in the blast, just after visiting him to trade notes on a project. A mother visiting the building survived and escaped while her daughter, who had gone out for coffee, was found in the debris three days later.
Others nearby on Avenida Pasteur were going about their business — driving a bus, missing a dentist appointment, making a delivery, preparing to take a shower, or opening up a shop before the attack changed their lives in an instant.
Theses faces now look down on the Georgia State University North Library, serving as living witnesses to the indiscriminate nature of extremist violence and carrying the burden of being arbitrarily spared on that fateful July 18, as antisemitism took its most malevolent form.
After seeing the photos in what will be their seventh spot since Ese Dia launched last October, Mr. Argüello saw Georgia State students milling around the photos, a few of them taking a keen interest.
“They were almost in the exhibition, so I think this is the best place we have found in the U.S.,” the ambassador told Global Atlanta in an interview before a “Malbec and Networking” reception at the Metro Atlanta Chamber for 19 companies hoping to win software business in Atlanta.
Wolfgang Schlör, associate provost at the Office of International Initiatives, said the idea came about when political science Professor Ryan Carlin, director of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy, connected the his team with Argentine Consul General Juan Manuel Navarro.
After discussing potential partnerships with Buenos Aires universities, Mr. Navarro brought up the exhibition. The GSU library had just designated a new space for art displays, and it happened to work well.
“We felt it was a good opportunity to connect students and the community to this important and tragic event in Argentina’s history, and how it changed the lives of the survivors,” Dr. Schlör said.
He hoped they would have just the ad-hoc experience that the ambassador was able to witness, and structured visits are also planned.
“We hope that the central location of this interactive exhibit will encourage students during breaks from study to learn about another country, the socio-political issues that connect Latin America and the United States, and the effects of religious extremism beyond U.S. borders,” Dr. Schlör told Global Atlanta in an emailed statement.
“Keeping the memory,” in part through photos of those left behind, is a state policy of Argentina, Mr. Argüello said, which is still aiming to track down and punish the Iranian officials, including some who are now high-ranking politicians, that Argentines allege have lived with impunity since supporting the assault.
“The attack on the AMIA building, was the largest antisemitic attack on the Jewish community, since the Holocaust,” said Dov Wilker, president of the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta office.
Mr. Wilker was moved by the photographs, who “could have been anyone,” he told Global Atlanta.
The fact that Iran has not been held accountable is “a painful reminder of the risks that Jewish people face all around the world. As antisemitism continues to rise in the United States and around the world, and as the Supreme Leader of Iran continues to threaten Israel, all Jewish people must remain vigilant.”
He added that the U.S. and other countries weighing a return to the Iran nuclear deal should see through this exhibition that “Iran’s nuclear program is not the only threat we face.”
The photos by renowned Argentine photographer Alejandra Lopez are printed on paper fashioned by hand from news reports on the bombing. Their imperfections are meant to show how the scars of trauma linger even as survivors press on.
Prior to Atlanta, the exhibition has been on display in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, always organized by the Argentine consulates in the respective jurisdictions, the Argentine Embassy in Washington and AMIA.
Click to view the Oct. 20 opening flyer below:
Corrections: A previous version of this article mentioned an event to be held to inaugurate the exhibition. That event has since been canceled.