Six months have passed

Jan. 22 marks six months since the tragic bombing and shootings in Norway. Photo courtesy Christy Olsen Field.

Jan. 22 marks six months since the tragic bombing and shootings in Norway. Photo courtesy Christy Olsen Field.

Changes in Norway since the July 22 bombings and shootings

“Six months have passed since the last sign of life from you on that rainy summer day in July. This has been a difficult day, but I have been to your grave and brushed away the snow from the pictures, hearts, flowers, birds and other things that we and your friends have left 🙂 Miss you – you are always in my heart. Love, mom.”

“I cannot believe that six months have passed. We miss you. Although the days go by, time stands still. Sleep well, my friend.”

Groups on Facebook dedicated to the memory of those killed on July 22, 2011,  have helped many to connect, share in each other’s grief, and start the difficult healing process. But these notes posted in the group “Rest in peace Synne Røyneland,” dedicated to the memory of the red-haired 18-year-old who lost her life on Utøya, show a common theme that emerged on January 22: disbelief that six months have already passed since that shocking summer day when 77 people were killed on Utøya and in Oslo.

Anders Behring Breivik, the man responsible for the attacks, will go on trial April 16.  “It is important, both for the community, victims and their families, that this be done quickly, in a dignified and proper manner,” said departmental director of the Oslo Courts Administration Erling Moe about the trial, in an interview with VG. He said that plans were laid early so that the Oslo City Court facilities could be remodeled to house the huge influx of people who will flock to the trial. If there is an appeal, it will be held no later than autumn of 2012, to ensure that Breivik will be tried quickly.  He has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic by the two psychologists who evaluated him, but many are calling for a second evaluation. So far Breivik has refused this.

The survivors of the attacks have had ups and downs. When school started in September, some found it difficult to focus on their studies. Both students and teachers had to adjust. Sunaas Hospital outside of Oslo was filled with the injured and rehabilitating. But many of the survivors have gone on to do spectacular things in the last six months. Two of them have published books: 18-year-old Emma Martinovic’s book “Lever” (“Alive”) came out on Dec. 1, and 20-year-old Siri Marie Seim Sønstelie’s book “Jeg lever, pappa,” (“I’m alive, pappa”) came out early in November. Both were Utøya survivors. Others achieved political positions. Prableen Kaur, 18, who survived Utøya by playing dead for over an hour, was elected as the youngest member ever of Oslo’s City Council, and also won a “Norwegian of the Year” award from the magazine Ny Tid. Viljar Hanssen, shot five times at Utøya, took his place on Longyearbyen’s local council only three months later. “I have looked forward to getting into everyday life again,” said Hanssen to TV2 in November.

Politically, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has received high praise from the Norwegian people and from leaders around the world for the grace with which he led Norway through the tragedy. Recently, in his New Year’s address, he said “I have thought of the survivors and the bereaved every day since July 22. How are you coping? Why did this have to happen?” He promised more answers in 2012. Indeed, soon after the trial in April, the July 22 Commission will present its objective and balanced account of the events that took place that day.

Around Norway, churches held services on Jan. 22 to commemorate the half-year mark. One of these was Harstad Church, in Troms, which lost four young people in the attack on Utøya.  “July 22 must never be forgotten, but we must move forward,” said former Justice Minister Knut Storberget, who was present at the church, and described the service as a powerful experience. 77 candles were lit at the service, one for each life lost.

“When one is left alive, and has experienced great loss, one must move on. Whether it feels good or not. And the memorial service today was a great opportunity to strengthen each other to go further,” said Storberget to NRK.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 27, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.