Where were you/what were you doing when the bombing took place?
When the bombing took place I was sitting in my dorm room studying.
What was going through your head?
It was lightly raining shortly before the bombing. There was a massive ‘boom’, which I immediately assumed was thunder. At the time I didn’t even think it odd that there was no other thunder or lightning after it. About a half hour later I learned it was the bomb. Initially we all assumed it was a gas leak that resulted in an explosion or something like that. There was a great deal of confusion initially. It was hard to imagine it being a bomb, considering Norway’s reputation as a very peaceful nation. However, the question still lingered.
Can you describe the atmosphere before, during and after the bombing took place?
I walked into the common room of the dormitory, where I saw another Peace Scholar. As soon as we started talking about the bombing there was an increased tension in the room. Everyone heard about it very quickly. Speculation started rising soon after. Checking the news, I soon began reading comments assuming it was an Islamic extremist attack, or people attacking Norway’s immigration policies. It was completely absurd witnessing how quickly people jumped to conclusions, but it really emphasized the level of confusion. We had a group meeting for all ISS students a few hours after we learned it was a bombing. The meeting was focused on reassuring us that we were safe at the school and dissuading us from traveling to public places. There was not a strong sense of anger, which I believe was soon prevalent after 9/11. Instead, there was an overwhelming feeling of sadness and disbelief, especially as the details of the shooting unfolded.
What has been the response like from the Norwegian people?
The response by the Norwegian people, from my perspective, has been the most positive aspect of this entire tragedy. Rather than responding in anger or vowing to avenge the deaths of the many innocent victims, the Norwegian government and its people have committed to their values of democracy and multicultural acceptance. The hope is that this tragedy will strengthen Norway’s focus on promoting peaceful relationships domestically and internationally. Rather than looking for people to blame, the country is taking its time to appropriately mourn those who were lost. Two other Peace Scholars and I traveled to the city center for a minute of silence outside the church where mourners came to lay flowers and reflect. We arrived fifteen minutes before the minute of silence, and there were at least a couple hundred people, but by the time the minute rolled around there must have been well over 1,500 people. It was extremely powerful. Rather than adhering to the minute of silence there was around five minutes of absolute silence. It was incredible seeing the great diversity present at the memorial. I felt like a part of the Norwegian community. We were all mourning and empathizing as one people rather than a bunch of tourists trying to sympathize with the Norwegian natives. I believe Norway has stood strong against the hateful attacks against it and will prove to the rest of the world that its commitment to peace cannot be broken.
How will this affect your studies?
There is no doubt the events will dramatically affect my last two weeks of classes here. My international politics class was actually scheduled to focus on the subject of terrorism and anti-terrorist efforts this week, so it will be interesting to see how these events are incorporated into class discussion.
What is it like to be a part of a tragedy away from your home country?
Surprisingly, I do not feel like I am a foreigner apart from this tragedy, away from my homeland. I genuinely feel like I am a part of the Norwegian community mourning alongside the rest of the people here. This hateful attack against Norway’s commitment to acceptance was an attack against innocent civilians, similar to the Oklahoma City Bombing and 9/11. I was definitely brought back to the feelings I had after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. However, I felt the same sadness instead for people I identified with in a completely different way. In these terrifying instances, many national identities seem to fade away, overtaken by a shared human identity. It was different experiencing it here in Norway, but I did not feel disconnected like I would have expected.
Any other thoughts or reactions that you would like to add?
This blow to such a peaceful nation has been devastating. I have no doubt that being here to experience it alongside other Norwegians and students from all over the world will be something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.