At the turn of the new year, many people look back at what they did in the past year. Well, thanks to my mother, I got to look back at my entire life. A couple of years ago we gave her a machine that digitalizes old photos, in the hopes that she could save the old slides from the eighties. Well, she did even better; she got the slides and everything else with it! I got an external hard drive under the Christmas tree, filled with photos.

There are some real gems in there that will never ever be shared with anyone, but look what I found:

AZF Toulouse

Photo: private

It’s AZF (and the poudrerie nationale) before the explosion (almost exactly two years before, actually). We used to go walking up to Pêch David quite often because it has a nice view of Toulouse and it only took about thirty minutes on foot from campus. So, yay, I have a “before” picture to go with The Red Brick Haze! And as a bonus, you get a picture of me at nineteen. Yeah, I’d have edited that part out, but I don’t know how…

In case you haven’t read The Red Brick Haze yet (why haven’t you? It’s free!), AZF was a fertilizer factory that blew up on September 21, 2001. It killed 31 people, wounded thousands, ruined the immediate area around it, and destroyed one third of the city’s windows. The area has since been transformed into a cancer research center, which is what you’ll see if you look at a Google map for example (what do you know, I have one right here – check out the AZF pin).

It was very difficult to determine the exact cause of the explosion, so many theories still exist. A trial was held in 2009, with the person responsible for the site judged for manslaughter, but that didn’t necessarily stop people from theorizing. I guess that’s part of why my brain thought it would be a good idea to include it in a story!