Samantha Voght-Eriksen recalls the 2011 Attack in Norway
Many of my best childhood memories have been summertime family trips to Norway, which is the native homeland of my father, and enjoying the pure magic this majestic country has to offer. In summer 2011, I journeyed alone to the land of the Vikings and trolls to study at the University of Oslo International Summer School. While learning the Norwegian language as well as Scandinavian Government and Politics, some of Norway’s “magic” faded to a national tragedy on July 22, 2011.
That rainy morning I had a field trip for my Politics course at a government building in the city center of Oslo. Suddenly life came with a jolt. A man named Anders Breivik set off a car bomb in front of the Prime Minister’s office building which was right next to the building that I was in just moments earlier. Although back safely at the University dorms by this point, to me it sounded like really loud thunder exploding, and I remember thinking to myself, how strange the echo was at the time. It wasn’t until I started receiving text messages and FaceBook messages from people in America when a close student friend stormed into my room. She was hysterically crying that someone had bombed the Oslo government building. In complete shock I couldn’t do anything besides feel the warm tears filling my eyes too. I was left speechless and confused. What was turning the world around me upside down?
While watching students run back to the dormitory for safety (which is only a few subway stops away from the city center) reality started to sink in. My frightened classmates, some in tears and covered in dirt, recalled the roar of the bomb and the shattering of glass as it tore through the streets of Oslo. For hours, helicopters buzzed back and forth low over our dorm carrying wounded civilians to the University hospital. Two hours later we were reassembled into a meeting to learn about what was officially broadcasted at that point. In sheer horror we froze as we heard (soon to be learned Breivik’s) shooting rampage on a summer camp island outside Oslo. My heart dropped knowing so many innocent people including teenage peers were hopelessly being murdered for one man’s political point of view.
Norway, a quiet and serene country well known for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, was forever changed on July 22. Much like America was to me on 9/11. Going to school in Oslo for three weeks after the bombing and attacks on the camp island Utøya, proved to be a turning point in many lives including myself. As a dual citizen of Norway and as an American, I took all of the experiences for what they are well worth. This incident was the first of its kind since World War II for the small country of Norway. I watched the country mourn for their loss but while they did - they gained even more national pride than ever before. It was absolutely phenomenal. To my surprise, the Norwegians did not fight back with hate or anger but instead fought back to Breivik (and anyone else who feels the way he did) with LOVE.
Holding a rose parade that gathered 200,000 people to Oslo (of a country yet to reach five million) the country peacefully mourned and remembered those who were lost and those who were injured. The country stood together and proudly said “I am Norwegian” as roses upon roses were piled several feet high in front of an old church in the center of Oslo. Even after such horrific attacks, Norwegians approached the situation much differently than anyone had anticipated. Jens Stolenberg, the Prime Minister, said it perfectly: “if one man can show so much hate, think how much love could show, standing together.” Forever, I will remember my experience on 7/22/11 in Oslo. What is carved into my memory will always be Norway’s response to the attacks as an amazing example as how the world SHOULD BE.