Norway tragedy – a blog from someone who lives in Oslo
It is early Sunday morning and I am once again woken by the sound of police sirens wailing through Oslo’s streets. It has been raining heavily and I can smell the wet air through my open bedroom window. It’s hard to comprehend how this weekend, that started so badly, could end in such a devastating mess.
92 people are not with us any more, and many more are injured. They have been brutally struck down by a man filled with hatred for the Norwegian Government and their multicultural and open immigration policy.
Anders Behring Breivik hated immigrants and multiculturalism and made his attack on the very political core of our open, democratic society. His attack wasn’t against Muslims or the immigrant’s that have made Norway their home, but the Norwegian Government and politically active youths that support our Government . The next generation of politicians that would take our country on in the future in the same open and including way as their predecessors, should they win the next elections. We are a country in shock. How could this happen here ? When you take a closer look at the way the Norwegian society works, we are a soft target for terrorism. The fact that anyone could park a van close by the entrance to the Government building is surprising. I am told security measures were being discussed, but that people who lived and worked in the immediate area had protested to losing so many parking places. So instead, the question of securing the buildings was sent back to the committee for another hearing. It is typically Norwegian that everyone gets to protest to changes and thus delay the process of national security. But that’s the way our democracy works here.
The general feeling in Oslo is one of shock and anger. Our streets are filled with soldiers and police. Something we haven’t seen here since world war two. The area’s around the Government buildings have been cornered off and only police are allowed to enter. It looks like a war zone. Windows have been smashed by the impact of the bomb and the streets in the area are covered in glass and rubble. Other Government buildings in the centre of Oslo are also cornered off and guarded by police and soldiers with machine guns and bullet proof vests. We were told to stay at home on Friday and not to go to places where many normally gather. I think the general feeling was that we had been the target of a terrorist attack and they were afraid there were more bombs. The city centre was quickly evacuated.
Later on Friday night we were once again horrified to learn of the shootings that had taken place in UtÃÂ¸ya. One man massacred 85 young people in cold blood. A lawyer couple I know have offices close by the Government buildings and had been having a meeting with local politicians at the time of the bomb blast. They had come in to Oslo from their summer house, cutting their vacation short. The husband had parked the car whilst the wife had hurried towards their office. She passed a young man on the street walking in the opposite direction and she had noticed him for some reason that she can’t put her finger on. Later that evening when the news broke that Anders Byhring Breivik was arrested, she was even more startled to see the young man that had passed her just ten minutes before the bomb exploded.
As the weekend comes to a close, we are hearing horrifying stories of how some of the people that were on UtÃÂ¸ya had survived. Some had hid and others had left the island, swimming in the cold water towards the shore on the other side. Local people who heard the shootings had taken out their boats to help take people in to safety. Actions reminiscent of world war two. My sister has a rescue dog and she and her team spent all night searching for people on the island after Breivik’s arrest. At least one body has been found making the death toll 85, but many are in critical condition in hospital. My family and I are safe, but my children have lost friends. I doubt there is anyone in Oslo that isn’t touched by these dreadful events. The police are still very much on alert and they cornered off Solli Plass, a central street, last night searching for more bombs. It turned out to be a false alarm, but I am sure I am not alone in wondering what is happening every time I hear the sirens from the police cars and ambulances that scream through our peaceful city streets at intervals.
I want to thank everyone for their support and well wishes. We appreciate it. We are a country in mourning and the churches will be filled today. We are a country that is learning the hard way that the safe haven we thought we had here in the arctic north exists no longer and we must wake up to the reality that we can no longer live in the way we have before.