OSLO—Norway is still grieving.
A year has passed since Norway was hit by two terrorist acts that took 77 lives and injured many more. Something Norwegians could never imagine became a horrific reality July 22, 2011: A lone man, dressed as a police officer, set off a bomb at the government headquarters and then proceeded to gun down dozens of young people in cold blood. They were attending a political summer camp at the island of Utoya—a place the campers called “the safest place on earth.”
The past year has been one of crisis, mental trauma, and grief. With a population of only 4.7 million people, so many people in Norway share some connection with the victims or survivors.
On July 22, memorial services were held all over Norway.
Survivors of the massacre at Utoya returned to the island for a memorial service, speeches, and music.
One participant at the service on Utoya was Martin Henriksen, former president of the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) and advisor at the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs. He barely escaped both attacks. He was at Utoya up until July 21, 2011 and then left for Oslo to work at the government building where the bomb went off; but at the time of the bombing, he had already left, to head back to Utoya. He did not make it there until after the massacre.
“Initially, I blamed myself a lot. I could not feel happy to have survived, since so many others had died,” Henriksen told The Epoch Times. “It has been a dark year. But there has been much strength in our unity. Now, it’s getting a little brighter every day.”
On the anniversary, about 1,000 people gathered on the island. Many AUF members who participated at the camp last year were present, but also many new members. Utoya is located 24 miles west of Oslo, and has been the site for AUF summer camps for many years.
“Today has been a day of overwhelming emotions,” Henriksen said. “It was painful and sad. We remember the dead, but there were many smiles and much happiness as well. It was good to meet and be together. For me, this is proof that we won’t be broken by this.”
The Youth League is naturally affected by the July 22 events in its everyday operations, Henriksen said. At the same time, it is also very strong.
“We have suffered a heavy blow, but we are back on our feet again. AUF says it wants to reclaim Utoya, and I think that will happen. Good triumphs over evil. Let’s not forget: There is always the possibility to create something new and beautiful,” he said.
“Reclaiming” Utoya is an important symbolic act, Henriksen feels. A terrorist should not be able to claim that place.
Ann-Kristin Hagen from Gjovik in Norway went to the mainland by Utoya to show her respect. She feels proud of the way Norway has handled the events.
“I think it has been handled very well. The way things were approached after the events, the criminal proceedings, everything. Some good has also come out of it: The country is more united. People tend to think twice and care for each other more,” she said.
“This is an important day, especially for the victims and the next of kin. It’s heart-rending to imagine what they went through on that island. They lack words to describe it, themselves.”
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gave several speeches throughout the day. One of them was at the ceremony outside the government building in Norway, which is still damaged and covered up. He also spoke at Utoya and at an event in downtown Oslo, at Radhusplassen, where many famous Norwegian artists performed. Stoltenberg talked much about love, trust, and care. The royal family also participated.
The mood in the Norwegian capital was quiet and warm. People left flowers and lit candles, and at noon, a service was held at the Oslo Cathedral.
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