This post will be mostly for my english speaking friends, seeking information on what has happened thus far in Norway.
On Friday July 22nd, at about 15.30 local time, a bomb went off in Oslo, causing a huge explosion in the heart of the political quarters in Norway. Police have so far not released any information as to exactly where the bomb went off, but it is believed that it was a car bomb, and that it went off in the vicinity of the governmental buildings in Grubbegata. Widespread panic ensued, but police, medical personal as well as firemen quickly arrived in the area and started securing the perimeter.
What we saw from media coverage in the area, reminded me of a war zone. Entire sides of buildings destroyed, windows blown out for at least a mile, rubble in the streets, people with blood on them. Not something one expects to see from Oslo.
Naturally, speculations started flying, and some media outlets started drawing parallells to islamic terror hits, while others tried to stay balanced and wait for more information.
Within the next few hours though, as if the bomb blast wasn't enough, we started getting information about a shooting in a summer camp. At Utøya (a small island where the Norwegian Labor Party Youth has a yearly gathering), apparently someone had started opening fire. We didn't know much at this point, but started talking among ourselves about the two incidents being connected. What made the situation even worse - if one can use a word like that - was knowing that the people on that island were mainly young people, ages 14 and up from what I can understand. Young people gathered to discuss politics, play football, barbecue, swim and generally have a good time.
As information started flowing in (much of it unconfirmed), it was mentioned that a person portraying himself as a police officer, had asked for a boat ride out to aforementioned island, under the pretence of informing the youth about the events that had taken place in Oslo.
Media was in shock. They tried collecting as much information as possible, all the while trying to stay balanced and not jumping to conclusions. A mistake by one of the broadcasters led to pictures being sent live from one of the choppers circling the island, and one could see a ghastly picture of some of the aftermath of the shootings.
When I went to bed at roughly 3 AM, police had started releasing some numbers. They said 7 were killed in the bomb blast, about 10 injured. They also said 10 were killed on the island, with 20+ being wounded, but they feared these numbers might go up. When I woke up, Norway was a different country..
The new numbers were simply unbelievable. At least 80 killed on the island, another 3 dozen or so badly wounded. The numbers from Oslo are unchanged as far as I know, but police have not yet concluded the search in the buildings to my knowledge.
An apprehension was made quickly after the shootings on the island took place. One man, an ethnic Norwegian (yes, that is a point of importance) 32 years of age, had been arrested. The gunman had been taken alive. What's known is that this individual had bought about 4 metric tons of fertilizer a few months back, that he has ties to right wing extremism and that he seems to be a succesful person. Anything else can only be deemed as speculations at this point. I will refrain from having any opinions about this person. First of all until he is convicted, but secondly because it won't bring back the people who were abruptly taken from us. No good will come of hating him. We will not forget him, but hopefully his ideas (if that was in fact his motives) will hopefully slide into oblivion with a whimper.
Now, to the best of my knowledge, those are the facts thus far.
But as in every tragedy, it's so much bigger than facts. Today, we have been getting eye witness reports, from people who escaped the island, people who aided them, statements from heads of state etc. Some stories are amazing, like the people who got in their boats and immediately drove towards the island to help the people that swam for their lives - to all the people involved in the supportive roles, like health personel, hospital staff, firemen, pilots, police and everyone else who dropped everything and came to help.
Other stories are so horrendous, I don't even know how to start describing them. Kids who saw their friends get killed in front of their eyes, swimming for their lives or hiding in terror, being lured to open ground by someone posing as a police officer - a person of authority that we usually trust with our safety. Young people trying to save their friends, conducting CPR on gunshot victims.
Throughout the events, I can't help but feel pride in how our politicians have handled the matter. All things partisan have been put aside, even though sneaky reporters have been trying to color the events in party politics. They acted calmly, expressed compassion and warmth, and strength - in a time where everyone were glued to their source of information. They insisted on not jumping to conclusions, to not demonize or point fingers. This was not the time for blame, it was a time for compassion. Our prime minister said in a speech "We must show that our open society withstands even these trials. The answer to violence is more democracy, more openess, but never naivety [...] Norway stands united in times of crisis [...] We are a small nation, but a proud nation [...] No one will frighten us into not being Norway".
And the people I know - I admire them. The compassion I saw expressed on facebook, people retweeting important information about contact numbers for family and friends, contact information for blood donors etc. They mostly acted calm, collected, and tried to be helpful. The few and far between that tried using the events to promote political ideas or hate, were quickly beaten down with a uniform feeling of compassion and solidarity.
But even so. The events that happened yesterday will forever live on as a memory. It will not break us. It will not discourage us. But it will always be there. My thoughts and compassion goes out to all those afflicted by these horrendous events. My heart cries for you.
For further reading, some fellow bloggers have written some excellent pieces. Some are factual, others about how something like this affects them personally. Links below: