It’s been 10 years since we experienced what changed from a completely normal summer day, to a nightmare no one will forget. I am writing this blog for those who were actually so young that they only have faint memories of the day. This is what my family and I experienced on 22 July 2011.
From Tour De France to explosion
We had returned home from our summer holiday a few days earlier. We are sitting in the living room watching the Tour De France. The TV is on and we watch while doing other things. A completely normal summer day, in other words. During the broadcast, we hear on TV that there has been an explosion in Oslo. OK, we thought, too bad. But at first we didn’t think anything more about it. Then TV2 interrupted its cycling broadcast and inserted an additional news broadcast from the explosion. We saw it as soon as we saw the pictures. These were strong cases. The government quarter itself in the middle of Oslo. It must be a bomb, we said, pretty quickly everyone understood that it was a bomb. Terror that we had previously seen from other countries had come here.
We followed the TV broadcasts on various channels a little alternately. We understood that there were many dead and injured, but who was behind it? Thoughts began to turn in the direction of Muslim terrorist groups as we had seen from abroad. After a while we were told that there was also an incident at Utoya, where the Workers’ Youth League had a summer camp. The island where I spent a couple of summer holidays when I myself was part of the same political youth organisation. But at first we did not link this to the bomb at the government quarter.
Shooting on Utoya
We didn’t understand what happened. Was it Islamist terror, was Norway under attack from a foreign power or were right-wing radical groups behind it? Would this spread to other parts of the country. Stavanger, my city, was in that sense an imaginary goal in my head. Stavanger is the oil capital, so hitting the oil industry here will hit the economy in Norway. I had children in my teens at the time. For the first and only time we gathered. There they were told not to go to the center or the Forus area, where most of the oil industry is located, until we showed more about what is actually happening.
A little late in the afternoon on this day, the first reports came from Utoya, or rather on the land side. Depictions that were unmistakable. It was a serious incident. Youths were shot by a person. Some swam ashore from the island to escape, the descriptions were gruesome. Later we learned that Anders Behring Breivik had been arrested and that he was probably behind both the bomb and the shooting on Utoya. We learned how large the scale actually was the next morning. The total number of people killed was 8 at the government quarter and 69 on Utoya. A total of 77 people had lost their lives.
22 July became a term
Gradually throughout the evening of 22 July and the next day we learned more and more about the terrorist. A Norwegian fascist. Someone who stands for the exact opposite of the values I have and around which the whole of Norwegian society is built. An attack on democracy, the Labor Party, Workers’ Youth League and Norwegian society.
The best of Norway will come to light in the following days. People lay flowers. Outside Oslo Cathedral, on Utoya quay, in every city and village. The country was in a single great mourning. At the same time, we felt a common support. We felt a people who not only mourned the tragedy, but also stood guard over the finest thing in our society, democracy. The way the country stands together in grief and processing was a form of joint therapy.
22 July an attack on the Labor Party and democracy
The then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg stressed early on that the attack was an attack on democracy. He is right about that. It was an attack against a political party that Anders Behring Breivik clearly wanted to get rid of. By attacking a political party, he attacks the entire democratic principle.
Anders Behring Breivik is a fascist and nationalist. He doesn’t hide it. This is a political direction that wants an elite to rule with the help of force if necessary. Fascism wants a strong state, not to help the people but to control them. A society where we are not allowed to say what we think, or protest against decisions made by the ruling elite.
The same mindset is still in society. We find it in echo chambers on social media, we also find some of this in so-called alternative media.