The bomb in Oslo ripped through the very heart of power in Norway and 25 miles northwest a gunman opened fire at a youth camp on Utøya Island. The explosions turned the ordinarily placid Scandinavian capital into a scene reminiscent of terror attacks in Beirut or Baghdad, blowing out windows of several government buildings, including one housing the office of the Norwegian prime minister. Even worse: at the camp, of about 600 politically active youths (most 15 and 16 years old), more than 80 were killed in a related attack on Norway’s greatest treasure – our children.
I often say – when important things happen in Norway; since my blog is about our history, culture, and traditions, it would be a disgrace not to post about it. Contrary to what I normally report about, this tragedy – the most violent event to strike Norway since World War II – will of course stand as a dark milestone in our history.

From bad to worse at Utøya Youth Camp
Even as the police locked down a large area of the city, a man dressed in police uniform and initially identified himself as a police officer entered the camp on the island of Utøya, encouraging the youths to gather round for information. He said it was a routine check in connection with the terror attack in Oslo, and when the crowd gathered he opened fire. Almost 700 young members of the Labour Party panicked and many jumped in to the water to escape or went into hiding on the island, which has no bridge to the mainland, so many could not flee in time.
Taken in 2010 we were in this area for our fall photo hunt. Here is the way the fjord should look – peaceful and safe.
Forest Fall Colour in Norway #15 Forest Fall Colour in Norway #16

How could this happen – in Norway?
We’re suffering two shocking violent attacks which no one imagined could happen. However, there was a lot of wild speculations on who could be responsible for a lot of reasons – e.g.:
Norway is a member of the NATO alliance and has a small fighting contingent in Afghanistan. It was one of several countries named by Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, as potential targets for attack. In 2006, Norwegian newspapers reprinted Danish cartoons that angered Muslims by lampooning Muhammad. Norway has also historically been a frequent participant in peacekeeping missions and a host for diplomatic talks, including the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. It seemed natural to look to the outside world to stand behind such a horror.

All these speculations were proven wrong when the gunman (who also appears to be responsible for the bombing) was captured: he was an ethnical Norwegian, extreme right wing and his motives seem to be political. Still it’s unreal, since political violence is virtually unknown in a country known for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize and mediating in conflicts, including in the Middle East and Sri Lanka.

Norway will be recognizable again!
As I have often written, Norway is a democratic society with a great deal of openness. Our people and political leader’s value closeness to the common man, an availability not seen many other places in the world. We will not compromise our values because of violence. I have spoken several times with Norway’s Prime Minister at social events without the need to be checked by security. Since my office is located in the same district as the bombing – I often see our politicians when I pass them on the streets. In spite of recent events, and we will watch out for becoming too naive, but we will stand together and protect the individuals rights, show consideration and respect for our fellow countrymen and hold on to our ideals. In spite of this attack we will be even more open, more tolerant and more democratic if it is possible. Let me quote the leader of the youth party who were on the island: “You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy or our ideals for a better world”.

To all my friends from all over the world: Thanks for your concerned notes, mails, text messages and phone calls. My family and I are all safe and appreciate your thoughts and well wishes.

27 Comments

  1. It is a good thing that you do not let a madman destroy what makes Norway strong. My love is sent to you both and to all your countrymen and women and children. You will get through this. I know.

  2. I was shocked to hear about this. Unbelievable and so sad. Glad you and your family are okay.

  3. Renny – That was beautifully written. I am glad to knoww that you and your family are safe. Sending thoughts and prayers to Norway at this difficult time.

  4. Such terrible news, Renny. It is good to read your thoughtful response to these dreadful events – much more typical of your countrymen than the actions of this madman – and also good to read that you, Diane and your family are OK.

  5. I was so saddened and shocked to hear this news about the tragedy in Norway. Many of my relatives still live there. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Norway, especially those who lost loved ones.

  6. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the news today. Neither can I imagine the terror those young people had to face. It’s too much to comprehend. The parents…can’t begin to grasp their grief.

    You’ve written an inspirational article.
    It speaks of hope and resilience in the face of tragedy.
    Long live your strong country.

  7. Renny, i cannot believe that such a thing could ever happen in beautiful Norway, where the people and the countryside are so wonderful. You and all the people of Norway, are in our thoughts and prayers here.
    angela xxx

  8. I’m so glad to hear that you and your family are ok. I’m praying for all in Norway, especially those with loved-ones who were hurt.

  9. Was thinking about you yesterday, Renny, so glad you are all safe. I’m watching the memorial service right now. Brings back awful memories of Dunblane.

    Hugs,
    Tracey xx

  10. Hello Renny! For me it was so sad to hear the news, I immediately thought of you and pray that you were right. Oslo and its people for me has been, is and will be an example of democracy and respect for the world at large.
    When I tell my friends that I like Oslo Peace always say that I feel when I walk through the streets and that nobody is going to remove.
    I am sending you a big hug and you and Oslo are in my heart and mind.

  11. That’s a very poignant piece of writing which must have been very difficult for you. My thoughts are with all the Norwegian people.

  12. I am so glad that you and your family are safe, Renny. We’ve just heard about the attacks today – we were out camping this weekend. We were shocked, and I can only imagine what you’ve been through. All the best wishes, and prayers from me, and Phil, of course. Norwegians are amazing people for keeping a positive attitude after this, we have a lot to learn from you.

  13. Very well said, Renny!
    Nobody, even terrorists, will destroy your strong democracy and pescefull way of living! We all together will figth for a better world, and also peace bloggers!
    Kisses and hugs!
    Luis left in his Blog new messages to Norway:

    http://luisdiferrart.blogspot.com/2011/07/dark-clouds-over-beautiful-norway.html

    http://luisdiferrart.blogspot.com/2011/07/viagens-voyages.html

  14. Definitely so sad. And I guess this will be remembered in history. Also glad Ana and Tor are still in the states and safe as well!

  15. Nobody could imagine a such act and specially in your beautiful and peace Norway.
    The simplicity of your politic people you can meet in the street each day is a thing french would like to know. The chance to live in a rich country , a life where people are usually honest and where you don’t need to have eyes behind you. The place of the Nobel Peace Prize.
    And I could say more and more.
    All my thoughts go the families who lost someone and to all children who lived this trauma. We know it will take time for them to recover a little.
    You’re right to keep this spirit. this madman would have win if violence could take the place of the democraty and the freedom. The law will do his job now helping the victims in their reconstruction.
    Pierre and me we are with you all, our dear blog friends from Norway. You are in our heart.

  16. I just returned from vacation with poor internet connection. So I’m late, but I still want to express my sympathy and tell you that my thoughts and prayers are with Norway and its people. Good to hear you and your family are okay.

  17. I am very sorry about this horrible event hurting so many innocent lives. I was pleased for the last 3 weeks while watching the Tour de France on TV to see many Norwegian flags along the race and everyone so happy – then came the tragic news. I read about this self-proclaimed “Conservative Christian nationalist” who is supposed to have been very active on far-right Norwegian language anti-Moslem hate forums. An Australian article stated that the perpetrator, Andres Breivik, was a Christian fundamentalist who wanted a “crusade” against the spread of Islam. This is an abominable act in such a peaceful country as Norway. It was painful to watch this on television knowing how kind and tolerant Norwegian people are. But, there are fanatics in every part of the world I guess and it is hard to fight against these people who have only hate in their heart. Your post was very touching.

  18. Letizia Marziali

    Italy feels close Norway and will always support your highest sense of democracy. Stay strong Norway. Affectionately yours, Letizia xxx

  19. I would like to express my thanks to all of you. I am overwhelmed by your response. I have sent many personal notes in reply to your comments but I would also like to express my personal thanks here.

    The only way to “fight” this terror is to respond with respect, care and love. One of the young survivors from the island attack has expressed this in an excellent way:
    If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we can show together.

  20. I am relieved that you and Diane are safe. At same time, I grieve for all of those children. I would like to see each child remembered somehow, perhaps a monument, in the future, when there has been time for healing.
    Hugs, RennyBA.

  21. Renny, Diane and family, our thoughts are with you and yours during your country’s trying time. We condemn the actions of this ‘activist’. Stay strong and let nothing change your peaceful and progressive way of life. Love from Singapore.

  22. The entire world has been grieving with you, Renny and Diane. We know you will only become stronger and more beautiful, known still as one of the most peaceful nations on earth. That will never change.

  23. I’d like to say it in your language .. in the fashion of JFK, “I AM A NORWEGIAN!”

    by António Gedeão, a Portuguese poet:
    Whenever I weep, it’s not me weeping.
    It is what men in all times have suffered, that weeps.
    The tears, they are mine, but the weeping is not.
    .
    .
    so very sorry for what has happened to you .. to us all..

    AL

  24. So very sorry my friend. The world weeps with Norway.

  25. It’s really heartbroken, but this tragedy also unleashed a strong solidarity and love in our country.

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