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Shootings Drive Icelandic Composer Back Home

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Shootings Drive Icelandic Composer Back Home

Atli Örvarsson

A screen shot from the Kastljós news program. Photo: RÚV

Three shootings were all they could take. Composer Atli Örvarsson, who made the music to the award-winning Icelandic film Rams (Hrútar), and his American wife Anna recently left the United States and moved to the tranquil town of Akureyri in North Iceland.

Tranquility was precisely the reason Atli left the northern town where he grew up, making him yearn for action abroad. Now, what once drove him away has pulled him back. He spoke on the news program Kastljós last night: “You’re young and interested in exploring the world and then it’s precisely the silence and the lack of action that you want to get out of, and get into more bustle and speed and all that. But then you’ve come full circle, and then you must deal with this feeling: wait a minute, this is the reason I left, and now it’s the reason I’ve returned.”

Three shootings in the US directly affected Atli’s wife Anna and her family. The first one occurred in 2002 when her father was attending law school in his fifties. One of his class mates, who had failed to make the cut, brought a gun to the university, where he shot several people. Anna’s father was one of the first people the shooter ran into, but he managed to escape and alert police.

The second shooting occurred at Virginia Tech University in 2007, the deadliest shooting by a lone gunman in US history. The university was her brother’s alma mater. One of his professors, whom he had regarded as his mentor, was killed.

The third shooting which affected the family occurred in Santa Monica, California, where Atli and Anna lived with their children. A man went on a shooting spree in the neighborhood, first shooting his family members, and finally going to his college where the killing continued. Anna was on her way home with their son when she witnessed the chaos created by the shooting. She told Kastljós, “It left a scar and that was the day I decided I was not gonna stay in LA. I was moving to Iceland.” She continued, “I couldn’t raise my children in this environment.”

I took them a few years to get ready to move to what they saw as the safest they could go to where they had roots and family.

They’re looking forward to their new life in Akureyri. Atli will continue to work as a composer, Anna, who has worked as an interior designer, would possibly consider work related to human rights, “anything that helps support the community.”

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