A report from Oslo in the wake of terror
Eivind Skjellum writes from Oslo
As some of you may know, Oslo, Norway is the city I call home. Some days ago, as I am confident you know, Oslo became the target of two acts of terrorism carried out by a deranged young ethnic Norwegian more or less my age.
I’ve had some trouble accepting the facts. I have seen the rubble on the streets, the military police guarding the blocks around ground zero. I have been in the Oslo cathedral and lit candles, put down flowers, and spoken with many about what has happened. All of it is surreal. I’m sure international media coverage gives an impression of a nation that didn’t expect in its wildest dreams something like this to happen. That would be fairly accurate. I never have.
Yet, in the midst of all this shock, grief and suffering, something incredible is taking place. Last night, I attended an event downtown where around 200.000 people gathered with flowers in the central streets of Oslo. The crown prince spoke, so did the Prime Minister – who has seen a massive surge in popularity. Many others addressed the crowds, as did some musicians.
But it was the crowd itself which was most remarkable. I have NEVER seen anything like this in Oslo. I dare say nothing like this has ever happened here. From where I stood, I couldn’t see a clear patch of ground anywhere. It was a sea of people. For a city with around 600.000 inhabitants, 200.000 is a ridiculous turnout. And everyone carried flowers.
When we all raised our hands in silence and I saw those flowers lift skywards, it sent shivers down my spine. There was an energy in the air that was palpable and it carried a clear message “Norway will never be the same again”.
It was a remarkable event in the spirit of of unity and compassion. There simply wasn’t any hatred or fear to be felt. Even there, I felt the reserved nature of Norwegians, but last night, we were reserved and shy together. In the face of evil, Norwegians are demonstrating that hate, violence and revenge are not the answer. I know it is hard for some to understand, and that makes me even more grateful to live here.
I’ve never felt particularly attached to my nation, particularly identified with the Norwegian heritage. But writing this, I feel gratitude for living in a country where people show this incredible resilience of heart and strength of spirit. It is moving and it is encouraging. And the growing sense of a positive sense of nationalism (as in beyond an ethnocentric nationalism) – of pride in my country – that I’ve felt over the last year, was strengthened further.
I have also thought about the terrorist himself and have started forming an image in my head of what drove him to carry out his heinous act. I will return with an analysis of that later on – for my own sake and as a service to those who don’t understand how such things are possible.
Thanks to everyone who has reached out in this time to ask me if I’m okay. That has been a true act of friendship and it has warmed my heart.