Today started off like July 22, five years ago. On vacation abroad! A sunny, beautiful day. Yet, I can still remember every detail of July 22, 2011. The day took a dramatic turn around noon. A BOMB had gone off in Oslo! The worst hadn’t started yet! A crazy gun man had a second mission! My quiet and safe country, where not even the police carry a gun, was under threat.
All Norwegians have a special relationship to July 22. For my generation, the date brings out stronger emotions than dates in the remembrance of World War II. Five years ago, terror hit Norway. During three horrible hours, 77 people, mostly teenagers, were taken away from us!
77 people were killed by one man. Hundreds of next of kin were thrown into an endless grief. My thoughts today go to the sisters, brothers, parents, grand parents and friends of the victims and those who survived the attacks!
I was, in a hotel room in Muscat, Oman, watching the sad news on every international news channel. All I wanted, was to get home as fast as possible. I didn’t personally know any of the victims, but like the rest of Norway I grieved.
A week ago, text messages between brave teenagers, hiding from the gun man, and desperate parents were published in a Norwegian newspaper. I couldn’t stop crying, when I read the strong messages. Some parents got replies. Others didn’t.
It has been said. Time heals all wounds. I’m not sure. No one should experience losing a child. Both a life and a future are lost.
The Norwegians answered with love and roses
The days and weeks after July 22, Oslo was covered in red roses. The Norwegians held hands and answered terror with love, not hate. The whole world found this extra ordinary. Still, I ask if we have done the same if the terrorist had been from a different country and religion. We will never find out!
The years after 2011, we experienced conflicts. Where should memorials be established? Should the bomb car be a part of an exhibitions? For how many years should the day have public commemorations in Norway’s many municipalities? We learned that people grieve differently. Many relatives and volunteer rescuers are still struggling to live a normal life. I read that 51 % of the parents are still not working like before July 22, 2011.
Recently, we have had other devastating terror attacks. It has been less than a week since Nice was covered in blood. Some relatives and survivors from Norway work as volunteers to help families, who experience the same. I admire their courage!
We cannot carry the grief for others, but we can all do something. Please, show that you care, remember the victims with dignity and make sure that new generations learn about this day.
What can we, you and I do?
- Show that we care, and respect different ways of processing grief. Often, we don’t know what to say. This is okay. Maybe, you don’t have to say anything. A warm, heartly hug or a hand to hold can be a good start.
- Take a “time-out” every July 22, and respectfully remember those who lost their lives. Share your experience and thoughts from this day.
- Visit a memorial site, like the Ring at Utoeya island. I will take my boys there, when they get older.
- Terrorism is an attack on our democratic values and symbols.Don’t let terror control your actions or travel destinations. If you do, the terrorists have won!
- Show respect and help out, when other nations experience terror!
Finally, I send my warmest love and thoughts to relatives and friends of victims of July 22 and other terror attacks! Every terror attack is a black day in our history! Share some love, spread some sunshine!