Norway in our hearts

Condolence book at the Norwegian Seamen's Church in New York City on July 25. Photo: Thor Larsen

Condolence book at the Norwegian Seamen's Church in New York City on July 25. Photo: Thor Larsen

The Norwegian community in North America responds to the tragedy

By Kelsey Larson

Norwegian American Weekly

The tragedies that took place in Norway on July 22 have sparked expressions of sympathy and solidarity from around the world. Vigils and memorials have been held in churches, mosques, and community centers; whole communities have come together to mourn Norway’s loss.

North America’s response included comments made by some of its most important politicians, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, both of whom visited the Norwegian Ambassador to write in a condolence book. “We are all heartbroken by the tragic loss of so many people, particularly youth with the fullness of life ahead of them. No words can ease the sorrow but please know that the thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with the people of Norway, and that we will stand beside you every step of the way,” President Obama wrote. “The United States and the American people stand with Norway and the Norwegian people in this time of grief and sorrow. We also know of the resilience of the Norwegian people as you move through this period of darkness. Please know we will stand with you in sympathy and solidarity now and forever. God bless you all and may the victims and their families find some measure of peace in the face of such evil,” wrote Secretary Clinton.

In Ottawa, Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a book of condolences as well, writing: “I want to express my deepest sympathies to all in Norway who have lost loved ones so senselessly. We share in your grief and your vulnerability. Please know that the free and open society that is Norway will always have a friend in Canada.”

In Seattle, Wash., a memorial was held on July 26th. People came from all over the Pacific Northwest: Canada, Oregon, and eastern Washington. Moving speeches were made by Honorary Consul Kim Nesselquist and Dr. Loren Anderson, President of Pacific Lutheran University. “We reach out to the people of Norway with our hearts, with our prayers for help and healing, with our words of condolence, our expressions of love, and our promise of support. Norway, we want you to know that we share your loss and grief! We stand with you because we, like you, have in the past seen the heart of our democracy tested. We stand with you now, as you mourn, we stand with you tomorrow, as you move forward, and we will stand with you in the days ahead as you rebuild that powerful sense of hope and possibility that so marks and ennobles both of our great nations,” said Dr. Anderson.

In Oklahoma, the Norwegian tragedies hit quite close to home for residents of Oklahoma

City, who remember the bombing that took place there 16 years ago. Former state representative Susan Winchester, whose sister was killed in the bombings, reached out to the people of Norway through an interview with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “These are very dark days, but they will get brighter,” Winchester said. “You can go forward. You can go on. I see how far we’ve come in 16 years…our thoughts and prayers are with you.” In Minneapolis, a memorial was held by the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, also known as Mindekirken, on July 24. The Rev. Kristin Sundt, Mindekirken pastor, said in a written statement: “It is fitting and right that on behalf of Minnesota’s nearly 900,000 citizens of Norwegian descent we honor our homeland and its victims.” In the bulletin from the service, these words were printed: “The Norwegian government has challenged the Norwegian people to respond to these events with openness and to work to protect our democracy. We also accept these challenges, and have decided to invite friends of Norway to join with us during this service of remembrance.”

In New York City, the Bell of Hope at St. Paul’s Chapel tolled July 27 in remembrance of the victims of the attacks. At the event in Lower Manhattan, Norwegian Consul Aslaug Nygard said: “This is a national tragedy for Norway, an attack on young people and our democratic values. I know that the people of New York know how this feels, so I would like to thank the city for the compassion and solidarities and sympathy you have shown us. Our response will be more tolerance, more openness, and more democracy… I think this bell carries a message of remembrance, hope, and peace.” The bell, a gift to New York from London, has been rung after the bombings in London, Madrid, Mumbai and Moscow; for the Virginia Tech massacre victims; and on 9/11 anniversaries.

This article was originally published in the Aug. 12, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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