Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Terror in Norway

We arrived in Oslo about five days after the killing spree that made worldwide news. While certainly a traumatic  experience for the Norwegians, their response seemed quite different from what we are familiar with in the US. 

The two pictures show the damage at the Government office buildings where eight people died. You can see the blown-out windows, but otherwise there appears to be little damage. Note the lack of policemen and the simple chain-link fencing. There was no military presence with sub-machine guns and other accouterments of war. Moreover, these were literally the only police we would see during our entire three weeks in Norway. What we did see we're massive flower displays as we traveled, especially around Oslo. 
The immediate aftermath of the shooting showed none of the hysteria we would expect here. The immediate area was cordoned off and evacuated, but buses and the subway continued to run. The airport road remained open even as cars were searched. The Prime Minister's response was that the proper answer to violence was more democracy and more openness, quite different than the USA-PATRIOT Act and its increased police powers here in the US.

The only inconvenience we noted was the Billy T concert we attended. We had seen Billy and his band at the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival in July and were looking forward to seeing him again when we got to Oslo. The bar where he played was literally right below our hotel window. Since the concert was supposed to be in the street, I was looking forward to getting a couple of pictures from that perspective. Because of a large memorial service held that same afternoon at a nearby church, Billy had to play inside and the only picture  then shows what might have been.  
Marit, our guide did talk about the killings to some extent. She explained that while the maximum penalty available in Norway would be less than 20 years, the perpetrator would spend the rest of his life incarcerated in one place or another.  She also said there were no headlines in newspapers or TV showing him.  Norwegians did not want to add to his infamy.

As we traveled around Norway, we saw flowers in every city commemorating those who died. Because most of the killing took place on an island that a political party used by the Labour Party as a youth camp, every community of any size in Norway was affected. Four funerals took place the day we were in Trondheim, over a week after the killings. They were so late because the government investigation was absolutely thorough in examining each and every death for the upcoming trial. Even three weeks later we would still see flower memorials above the Arctic Circle. 

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