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Shock and disbelief

July 23, 2011

Shock, disbelief, hurt, anger and frustration… just a few of the emotions being expressed in Oslo, Norway, as people try to come to terms with Friday's events.

Oslo's government quarter after the bomb blast
People felt the explosion reverberate throughout the cityImage: dapd

The mood in Oslo the day after a bombing and shooting rampage is somber. On Saturday, most people here were still working through their shock and disbelief that something like this could have happened in their hometown.

Kristin Van Asperen, an Oslo resident, had just left the downtown core where she works when the bomb went off.

"I just can't believe this really happened," she said. "I heard the explosion and instantly knew something was wrong. Today, I was supposed to work with a client, but I can't stop crying. The worst is all those innocent kids being massacred, stuck on an island. I can't imagine the panic and horror."

Even Solberg is also an Oslo resident. He heard the blast from his apartment and says it left him shaken. But what he feels most strongly is anger.

Visitors at the Oslo cathedral light candles
Norway is suffering in shock and griefImage: picture alliance/dpa

"I am reluctant to call it terror," he explains. "The goal of terrorists is to cause terror or fear by killing indiscriminately. This guy was on a mission to kill a specific group. He's a bastard and doesn't deserve the 'glory' of the terrorist title."

Solberg continues, "In a way, I suppose it's 'good' that this was homegrown though, much as I wish it hadn't happened at all. We have enough intolerance here as it is."

Shock and disbelief

Immediately after the attacks, movement in or out of the city was nearly impossible. While transportation systems were running again on Saturday, most people seem keen to avoid the site of the bombing as they try to work through their shock.

Jessica Hartenberger was in her car with her husband near the government building when the explosion rocked the city. She felt the shockwave reverberate through the vehicle.

"I knew immediately that it was a bomb," said the American. "My first thought was to get out of the downtown area." She and her husband will be spending the weekend in his hometown of Boe, south of Oslo.

"I guess we chose a good weekend to go out of town," she added. "I still can't believe something like this would happen here."

Parents have been taking the shooting attack on Utoeya particularly hard. One mother, who wished not to be named, says as a parent, her heart goes out to those who went through "every parent's worst nightmare."

Anders Behring Breivik
Some think Breivik does not deserve to be called a terroristImage: picture alliance/dpa

Late into Friday evening, the numbers of dead, wounded and missing were still uncertain. Parents waited impatiently in fear on the mainland, unable to search for their missing children, as bomb squads scoured the island for possible explosives and young people hiding in the bushes.

As the numbers came in, with over 80 people confirmed dead on the island, the horror has grown.

Tricia Ratterman is an American who has lived in Norway for nearly a decade. She is frustrated with what she perceives as a lack of justice.

"In Norway, the longest sentence someone can receive is 21 years," she explains. "21 years for the murder of so many people? How is that justice? It's ludicrous."

Changes to come

While the people of Norway try to pick themselves up again after witnessing such horrific events in their normally peaceful country, many are left wondering how this will change life here. Previously, police officers have not even been armed while on patrol. They had to call in for permission to arm themselves should a situation call for it. There is speculation that this may change.

Norway has been renowned as a peaceful, quiet country, which has led some to dub it a "soft target." Speaking after the attacks, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg stated that these events would not bully Norway into changing, but others are not so sure.

Kristin Van Asperen summed up what many are feeling: "The scariest thought is, what does this mean? What happens next? Will there be more attacks? I dread to think how this may change my country."

Author: Leila Asdal, Oslo
Editor: Ben Knight

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