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Zug remembers massacre victims

Candles have been lit outside the abandoned debating chamber (swissinfo/SRI) ledsom

Memorial services have been held in Zug over the weekend, one year after the parliamentary massacre which left 14 local politicians dead.

This content was published on September 27, 2002 - 10:01

Organisers of the weekend's events said they had chosen to remember the victims in a subdued manner.

Three members of the cantonal government and 11 other lawmakers were killed on September 27, 2001, when a lone gunman entered the parliament and opened fire on the assembled politicians.

The gunman, who also took his own life, was later identified as 57-year-old Friedrich Leibacher, a citizen of Zurich who had been involved in a legal conflict with the Zug authorities.

Requiem

Three separate performances of Mozart's Requiem formed the main body of the memorial programme, with smaller events taking place throughout the region.

Mozart's last great unfinished work was also chosen as the musical accompaniment to this month's first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, with 180 choirs performing the requiem across 20 different time zones.

"It was clear from very early on that we wanted Mozart's requiem for the Zug memorials as well," the city's cultural commissioner, Regula Koch, told swissinfo.

"It is generally considered to be the requiem of requiems but it doesn't go overboard in its emotion."

Deep sorrow

Members of the local government ruled out any media interviews or briefings in the run-up to the anniversary - partly out of respect for grieving relatives but also because of the deep sorrow still felt by the politicians themselves.

"It really does seem like it could have happened yesterday," says Zug parliamentary officer Paul Langenegger.

"The anniversary will certainly bring back those terrible images, and it will be very difficult for all those affected, and particularly the friends and relatives of the victims."

Grisly memories

Langenegger still lives with his own grisly memories of that day in September 2001. He left the parliament chamber just a matter of seconds before the gunman entered.

After surviving the bloodbath himself, Langenegger felt compelled to join the team of visitors who have been meeting with bereaved relatives and other survivors in the months that followed the attack.

He admits that it didn't help to banish his own nightmares.

"I was so grateful to be alive that I felt I had lots of energy to offer for those less fortunate and I felt good about the visits at first," Langenegger recalls.

"But at the start of this year I fell into a real low and needed to go for counselling myself. I took time off for a holiday as well but it was still a really difficult time."

The visits are less frequent now, but Langenegger stresses that they haven't stopped entirely.

In the week leading up to the anniversary, he had talks with two journalists who were hit in the shooting, both of whom are still receiving treatment for their injuries.

Relaxed atmosphere

The sombre mood around the cantonal police headquarters where parliamentary business is being temporarily conducted stands in stark contrast to the relaxed atmosphere over in the city's picturesque centre.

In the cafés and park areas surrounding the parliament building itself, tourists and locals are once again enjoying relaxed lunch-breaks and wonderful scenery.

Renowned for its high proportion of millionaires as well as its decadent kirsch cakes, the city seems once again ready to embrace the easy life.

"Maybe the anniversary will lead to some talk about the shootings, but in general things seem back to normal now," one sunbathing resident told swissinfo.

"It was a really sad situation at the time," agreed another local, "and we still think about the people affected - but the atmosphere in Zug is otherwise back to how it was before the attack."

Peace of mind

Those directly involved in the attacks may never be able to look back with the same detached perspective as members of the general public.

But Paul Langenegger is confident that the parliamentarians and their relatives will also be able to find peace of mind, some day.

"Our work with the people most affected will carry on," Langenegger told swissinfo, "and it will require a lot of strength. But there is strength here - and courage for the future."

swissinfo, Mark Ledsom in Zug

Zug memorial

Fourteen politicians were killed in last year's shooting at the cantonal parliament in Zug.
The lone gunman, 57-year-old Friedrich Leibacher, took his own life.
Some survivors of the attack are still receiving counselling and medical treatment.
Three performances of Mozart's Requiem were held at churches in Zug, Unterägeri and Cham.

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