Today was a shocking and terrifying day for Norway. I woke up from my afternoon nap to what seemed to be a clap of thunder after a very rainy morning. Not ten minutes later, I saw a status update from my friend Joe back home about an explosion in Oslo. It turns out that he heard about the attack before anyone I knew here. Disbelief was our first reaction as my friends and I tried to check sources online. Who would want to attack Oslo, the world capital of peace?? There was much speculation and many rumors about what had happened as well as panic and concern for our friends and family in Oslo. Thankfully, almost everybody at the International Summer School has been accounted for and is back here on campus safely. Two of my friends had actually gone downtown this afternoon for coffee and were just two blocks away from the building where the bomb went off. I had originally planned to join them. The windows in their café rattled and after seeing people running through the street, many on cell phones, they went outside to find out what happened. They saw shattered glass and damaged buildings through a smokey haze before a police officer moved the police line farther away from the scene.
It has been very interesting to see how the students here have reacted to these events. My two friends were, naturally, pretty shaken up. Most of the Americans were nervous and confused. Many students were already discussing who might have attacked and why, while others were snapping pictures during our emergency ISS meeting. Some started shouting in the hallways about terrorist attacks, and a few were crying. Most were trying to get ahold of loved ones at home. However, many of our friends from the Balkans didn’t seem phased by the news coverage at all. While they were of course concerned and saddened, many of them have grown up in violent, unstable countries and hearing about a bombing was not an entirely new experience for them. The distant sirens and helicopters above, however, were very surreal for me.
At this point, I don’t know much more than many of you do, although some of the news on TV has been taking longer to trickle over to the States. We’ve been following BBC’s live coverage online and I can give my brief, unprofessional summary about the information I’ve heard so far:
As of now, seven are confirmed dead in the Oslo city center. The number of injured is unknown. Police suspect a massive car bomb but do not know the cause. Damage was done to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s office and government headquarters as well as the location of a main newspaper in Norway. All the government ministers are safe and the Prime Minister has left a press conference to go visit the injured in the Oslo University Hospital. They’ve evacuated the central city and soldiers and police are downtown now. Soon after the explosion, a gunman dressed as a policeman fired openly at a Labour Party youth camp on the island of Utøya, west of Oslo. The Prime Minister had been scheduled to attend. Ten young people have been confirmed dead so far, but the search for missing people is still going. Undetonated explosives have been found on the island. One man, reported to be a 32 year old Norwegian, has been arrested and is believed to be connected to both incidents. The motivation for the attacks is unknown.
It has been a very very scary day full of bombs, gunfire, broken glass, and blood. I can’t imagine the terror of those youth on the island who were forced to hide in bushes or attempted to swim away from the island toward shore. However, as Prime Minister Stoltenberg stated, “It’s important that we don’t let ourselves be scared. Because the purpose of that kind of violence is to create fear.” Thank you everyone for keeping Oslo in your thoughts today and in the coming weeks. These incidents have truly shaken this country as a peace nation. As my dad said, “In this tragedy the irony of your being there to study peace has not been lost on any of us.” Perhaps this is all the more reason to be studying peace in Norway.