How to respond to terrorism

Today I participated in a memorial and response to the terrorist attacks in Oslo, a semi-spontaneous gathering of people organized within 24 hours via Facebook and TV. Around 200000 people – a third of the city’s population, the largest gathering in Oslo since the second world war, and that in the middle of the holiday season – met at City Hall Square. the large square between the City Hall and the harbor. I have never seen so many people in the streets of Oslo – and yet, the city was eerily quiet.


Most, including us, carried roses or other flowers. The intention was to have a “March of Roses“, but the number of people made this impossible – instead, it became a silent and stationary memorial, especially moving when everyone held their flowers high and spontaneously and very mutedly sang Nordahl Grieg’s “Til ungdommen.”



There were speeches by many, among them the Crown Prince (“today the streets of Oslo are filled with love. We have chosen to meet cruelty with closeness.”) and the Prime Minister (“evil may kill a person, but will never defeat a people”) but I actually thought the Mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang, expressed it most cogently:  “Together, we will punish the murderer. The punishment will be more openness, more tolerance, and more democracy.”

Before going down to the City Hall Square arrangement, we visited the Oslo Cathedral, which has become a focal point where people have left flowers, candles and letters:


We also went closer to the bomb site to see the damages. This is the building where Julie, our oldest daughter, works:


And here is a view into a coffee shop on the first floor, two blocks away from the blast:



There were lines outside every flower shop:


After the ceremony, people where told to leave their flowers somewhere in the city. Here is one solution to this challenge:


Like one of the speakers, Dilek Ayhan, said: “Today, I am very proud to be Norwegian.”

PS: Many more, and better, images here.

5 thoughts on “How to respond to terrorism

  1. Christian Kamhaug

    Well written, Espen. I was there too (a bit closer to the fountain on the west side of City Hall), and being there last night (didn’t bring a rose,though, the stores were all out) was important, and I did two things I’d never done before; I participated in group-singing and I cried in public (at the same time actually, while singing Til Ungdommen). Last night, while standing there with 150.000 others, I made a commitment. I will take responsability for our democracy and join a political party. Not the one that was hit the hardest, but still… While I did not vote for Prime Minister Stoltenberg, in the last days he has earned my deep respect – well as that of most of the country. He has shown great statemanship and courage in an unprecedented situation for our country.
    Today I’m at the office in Stockholm, and it actually feels good to be out of the country for a day. Walking through the terminal at Oslo Airport this morning, and boarding my flight, I felt like a cloud has lifted from our country. Last night’s many rose-marches did something to us. While we’re still marked by what happened Friday, perhaps we got some closure last night. Life must go on. The dark forces of hatred and bigotry cannot and will not silence us or scare us or disrupt our lives. We the living owe that to those who died or lost their loved ones.

  2. Birgit

    I deeply admire how the Norwegians are dealing with this crisis. I wish you all that this tragedy will not be forgotten but that you will be able to turn it into something valuable for the future.
    I am glad nobody from your immediate family and friends was directly impacted – the indirect impact is of course there.
    We are still getting very intensive news coverage in Germany which is good as this cannot be forgotten quickly.

  3. Vaughan Merlyn

    I am not surprised to see the dignity and maturity of response from the Norwegian people. There’s never really an upside to tragedies such as Norway has just experienced, but the strengthening of bonds, opening dialog about troubling issues, and frank discussion around how to deal with any form of extremism will all be healthy responses that will serve you well going forward, and perhaps help other regions in the world learn from the Norwegians.

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