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.