I feel bad for the first post in nearly a year being about the pain I and my country are feeling, but these words needs to get out, and using my second language for it gives me the distance I need right now.
On Friday, when I came home from work, it was to the sound of something a little like thunder. At least according to my boyfriend and my housemate. We soon got calls telling us to check the Norwegian news. There’d been an explosion to our government headquarters/the headquarters of Norwegian newspaper VG. No one knew what caused it or why, but there were huge damages.
I was supposed to just come home, leave my workstuff and go straight for the trains to Hokksund, to celebrate a cousins 5th birthday, and so we did. The bus to our train came when it was supposed to, but the route was going past the hospital they were bringing all the injured to, so somewhere between my house and the train station we got delayed for about ten minutes, enough to just miss our train. No biggie, worse things were happening downtown, so I called mum to say we were going to be delayed, but I was trying to figure out the quickest route to Hokksund right now.
While on the bus, after getting the main gist going around twitter, I called my little brother to ask if this was the annual week of Utøya, or if he were coming to my aunts as well. I told him about the explosions, and we agreed that I would keep him updated, since they didn’t have that strong an internet connection on the island. He seemed slightly anxious, but as we both said, he was safe on an island in the middle of nowhere.
While trying to figure out how to get to Hokksund I got several calls from dad, my aunt and mum. My dad just wanted to make sure we were safe and thought, based on the rumours I’d managed to pick up by then that this might’ve been a propane explosion (the rumours at the time had it that the explosion was happening by the refectory of the government building). Not very unlikely, as the refectory is closed and unoccupied during July (according to twitter friends who work there). My aunt was equally relieved that we were heading out of town to my other aunt. She asked me if I knew wether my brother was in Oslo, but I told her he was safe at Utøya, so no worries there. She found the thing scary, but relieved that both me and my brother were safe, she continued to call loved ones in Oslo.
An hour after the train we were supposed to get on the train, we caught one, and I sat down to read my book while following my twitter feed with half-an eye (thank heavens for smart phones). I tried to safe power, but was ready to charge it as soon as I got to Hokksund (it is in fact smart to bring your charger when going further away than the shops – you never know what’ll happen).
When the train had reached Drammen, I got a text from my brother saying there were shooting and that he was in hiding, but scared. A couple texts went back and forth and I found out people had already been hurt, but he didn’t know how severly. I did not manage to fully believe this, so I asked friends on google talk and checked facebook/twitter for news about this. He was not joking. My little brother was in fact laying in hiding on an island fearing for his life. I was so glad to hear it from him first-hand, not having to worry if he’d been shot and being able to pull myself together before taking in the news from the regular sources.
I came to Hokksund, mum picked us up and we went to my aunt. That’s the saddest birthday party I’ve ever been to. Everyone adult were sitting staring at the news, hoping it was all a cruel dream. My cousin asked my mum why she was crying, and my mum couldn’t manage to tell the truth «I’m just a bit hurt», she said, using the Norwegian word for damage, not the internal heartbreak hurt she felt for her son, my brother. After all, the kid just turned five. She should be able to have a happy birthday, even if the world is going to the dogs.
I spent our time there religiously following twitter (I had updated both twitter and facebook as soon as I knew about my brother), I kept on telling people not to call their loved ones on Utøya, not draw attention to where the kids were hiding, not risk my brothers life.
After the first text from my brother people started asking me on all the medias they knew how to reach me on how he was, if I’d heard anything, if he was safe yet. Journalists started asking if I got put him in touch with them, and somehow Associated Press came through to me. I was so busy trying to gather all the information, I didn’t have time to react myself, or even talk about my own feelings. Letting people know all the news I could get about my brother was the most important thing.
When I got the text saying he was on a boat, I felt so relieved I really thought my heart would burst. I didn’t know whether he was unharmed, what he’d seen or anything other than the fact he had so far survived one of the worst situations I could ever imagine. I was in pain, but found it more important to paint whiskers on the cheeks of a five year old cousin wanting to be a cat. No one cared that they were painted with a blue eyeliner-pen. She and her two friends were meowing cats on the floor, we adults were just relieved that my brother was alive.
There were cake and food and drinks, but it was completely impossible to eat. I’d had strawberries for lunch, and I didn’t feel hunger or even want for anything eatable. The Associated Press came through, and their journalists were the first who properly got the wordings of my experience. They were patient, asked questions, but didn’t pry (thank you). Someone else from them called, and I gave mostly the same answers and were told to give my brother the biggest hug possible when I finally got to see him.
We went home to my mum and the cats she’s watching. It was intolerable sitting in Hokksund not knowing. I knew dad was in his car rushing to get up there, so he could care for my brother as soon as possible. We were considering trying to get up there as well, but my common sense told me there would be ambulances needing to get up there, lots of parents wanting their children back and the obvious press trying to cater for the worlds curiosity. We knew my brother were safe. My dad was on his way, he would be fine. There would be a team of people to take care of him, making sure he got what he needed, he didn’t need more family with a dire need to see he was safe. We could hold our pain and wait.
After having gone through my old closet, raiding it for clothes I’ve missed and having played with the cats and gotten in touch with friends from all over the world asking if I and my loved ones were safe and having received a phone call from my brother confirming he was safe, being taken care of and physically whole part from some bruises, I decided to take my boyfriend to my dads place and wait there to see if my brother would come home that night. With a cat-allergic boyfriend, I think that was the best place to be, no matter how you look at it.
We sat for hours waiting, until we could bear no more news. My boyfriend went to bed, my grandmother went home, and my stepmother started making the house ready for the night. After she’d gone to bed and I’d blown out the candles my dad came home. And the horrors. It was just dad, and he told of zombified youths traumatized beyond imagination telling stories I still can’t fathom. I hugged him, and we went to each our beds. I cried myself to sleep that night, for the first time in ages. I could not believe the cruelty. I could not believe the desperation coming from all channels. It was too much.
During the evening my boyfriend heard news of family members being at Utøya, not knowing how they were. He kept his worries about them from me, letting me worry about my closest. I asked my dad if he’d seen or heard anything about them, and he had only horror to tell about the one he’d heard of.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well. I hardly ate. Before breakfast I’d been contacted by more medias than I’m comfortable with, and I couldn’t care about them anymore. Dad was going back up to Sundvollen and I asked if I could join, if only to try see if I could do something – anything for my brothers and his friends. Our little sister demanded that she’d join as well, and I said I’d take care of her if need be. She needs her brother too. (Later that day she would greet the crown prince and refuse to greet the king, bringing a good round of needed laughter to us).
On our way up there I was still an information-junkie scouring twitter and facebook for any bits of news. I read blog posts written by survivors and cried. I tried to stay composed and smile and pull faces at my sister in the back seat. I let her play with my Nintendo 3DS and helped her with Zelda to keep her distracted enough.
I remember when we got close. There were blockades, but my dad just said «kin» and the police let us through. When we got to Sundvollen, I was annoyed at all the cars there, just wanting to see a parking spot soon, so we could run into the hotel. After parking the car, we went towards the hotel, but there were a crowd of journalists blocking our path. Another journalist (my dad had spoken to her the night before) barked at the others to let us through so we could find our dearest. They immediately divided, and we got into the area. There’d been press conferences that day, and I could see our grieved Prime Minister talking to someone. It’s amazing how calm everything was. Most of the rescued youths seemed to have been brought home or to hospital. The people still there were mostly the ones strong enough not to panic, just wanting to find the ones they were missing. And there were families, politicians and a huge amount of volunteers making sure everyone had whatever they needed.
When we came into the lobby, my brother called for us. I really wanted to push our sister forward, letting him hug her first, but I couldn’t help it. I was overwhelmed with emotion and was basically running. I’d never been so happy seeing that little brat. I hugged him close, held him tightly, not really wanting to let him go. My little traumatized brother. Why did he have to endure this while I was safe? Why not me instead? He’s doing so much more than me every day. He fights for our democracy every day. He’s an up and coming politician, being recognised by so many for the work he does for the Norwegian Labour Party. Why did HE have to go through this? Why?
After a while our mother came. And then the King, Queen and Crown Prince. They and the present ministers were hugging everyone who needed a hug, they were listening to the stories, they became totally human. Because that’s what we needed. I lingered in the background. It’s way more important to give attention to the poor souls who were out there. It’s more important showing praise to the rescuers who brought up so many swimming kids. There were so many saved from drowning because people in boats decided to go out there to pick them up.
My thoughts are going all over the place on this, but it needs to be written. I need to write it. I need to get it out.
After a while at Sundvollen we all went back. First to Hokkund where my boyfriend decided to catch the train back to Oslo, then to Drammen where there was another memorial. I wanted to get back to Oslo, but I knew I needed to be with friends first before being able to take the train. Well, I never got on the train. They made up a bed, and let me sleep until I woke today (Sunday). I spent the day trying to gather strength enough to go the meters over to the train station. I simply could not get on the train. I decided this really was not a big deal, and sent out a call for anyone going the same way by train or bus, so we could at least share the ride. Someone I don’t even know said they were going by car later in the evening, and if I didn’t find the strength sooner, I was welcome to join. Relief. I would get home, no matter what. And then dad called. He asked if I’d gotten home to Oslo and I just started crying. I hadn’t wanted to bother him, since he obviously had my brother to tend to, and a little daughter with lots of questions needing to be answered. I couldn’t bring myself to ask if he could take care of his grown-up daughter as well. After all, I’ve managed so much in my life, I should be able to manage this too. He was annoyed I hadn’t asked for help from him before and drove me home. I have the best dad ever.
I promised to get in touch with some kind of a crisis team (I’d already promised mum the same) but when I got home I couldn’t even find the strength to look up their number. A friend (THANK YOU) on msn asked me how I were, and I told him. He called up the national hotline telling them the really short version of my story and got a couple numbers. I got no reply. He found another, and they didn’t reply either. In the end I found the number for the emergency health care. They replied. I burst into tears with relief and had to tell them to wait a few moments.
It was so nice having someone outside this madness to talk to. Someone to pour all my thoughts and childhood memories and praise of all the heroes I see in this story and everything at. Having someone comforting me, saying I should take care of myself and those around me, take the time to let things calm down, just chatting me through my worst weekend. How I never thought I’d experience something so painful I felt my heart burst this bad. How I feel so sorry for the bastards mother, how worried I am about the fact that human people can get themselves to do this. How I worry for what will happen to these youths in a few months and hearing me urge her and the whole system to be there then, hearing her saying they’re building a system for that as we speak, even though they are focusing on the instant reactions at the moment. Just hearing a sound voice in all this. Having someone to admit I really can’t face going to work in the morning, and hearing from someone that it is perfectly ok to take a personal day, even if I’m just the sister of someone. Hearing that my reaction is understandable, and that it is ok to let it all out, hearing I can call them any time, day or night.
I am so undescribably proud of my brother. I am proud of the fact that these youths looked out for each other on the island while fearing for their lives, setting each others above themselves. I am proud of the fact that I belong to a country where the king and his family takes their time to mourn with us. I am proud of the fact that I’ve seen our king dressed down coming to Sundvollen more as a grandfather to everyone than their king. Seeing our king and queen there was comforting in the same way having my great grandfather comforting me when I fell as a child used to be. I am proud of the fact that this is possible in Norway. I am proud of the fact that our country instantly gathered to do everything possible for the victims of the bombings and the youths at Utøya.
It’s much simpler for me to dehumanize the guy who put my brother in such danger. Someone doing that cannot be proper human. I fear, though, that doing just that will let him win. He’s not a monster. He’s a very bad man, having performed monstrous actions. He’s caused a huge wound in my country and I have no respect for him. He’s still a human. I hope he’s kept away from all kinds of media, that he never gets the satisfaction of us talking about him, dissecting his manifesto in a desperate effort to understand him. I hope he only gets to know how much love there is going around now. How we are more inclined to support each other, that the society he hates so much he tried such desperate measures to destroy it has only grown stronger. How we’re looking at so much hope now. I hope he’s in pain. I found myself wishing all kinds of small irritations on him. I hope he gets a stomach ulcer, I hope he gets an infection in his toe, I hope he gets all these non-lethal pains because I don’t believe he’s capable of feeling all our actual pain. But I want him to feel it. I want him to feel the combined pain we all feel, but I don’t want him to die.
I know he should never be allowed out on the streets. At least I hope so, for his own sake. There are bound to be plenty of people reckoning the price they will pay for his life to be fully reasonable all things considered. I can’t wait until I am able to feel true indifference towards him. Right now I am just at a loss. He tried to hurt my little brother. The kid had proudly become the big sister of some 21 years ago. The kid who were either my worst enemy or my best friend. The kid I conspired to catch Santa with, but failed every year. My little baby brother.
I remember the first ultrasound image of him, how I ran into my grans workplace eager to show her how my baby brother looked like. How he only slept during his baby-hood the one time I wanted to show him to all the kids at this birthday party down the street, how he bit me once and I still have two white spots on my hand after his only two teeth. How he nearly pulled my earrings out and I am still scarred. How proud I was when I found out he were going to the same high school as me with mostly the same teachers. How proud I was when he got to be the leader of the labour partys youth faction in our home county. How proud I was hearing he got a placement in the communications department of the party he belonged to, how proud I was to hear that people in our home county can vote for him in the county AND council elections. How proud I was when he was younger and working for help to kids with emotional problems, being bullied and having mental issues, needing someone, how he was fighting for our council to keep having a place for these.
Among the youths at Utøya, there were several people like my brother. Too many of them never got to reach their full potential. Too many did not get home to their families, too many lost dear friends. These were everyday heroes working for a better Norway and a better world. Working to make this world a great place. The bastard used their concern for the government headquarters in Oslo to try gather them so he could shoot them down en masse. He used a police uniform, making these kids skittish of all people in police uniforms, especially those carrying weapons.
He made my little brother lay in hiding for an hour and a half fearing for his life. There is no way of explaining how I feel about that. I hope I never see him in real life. My brother got out safe with nothing but bruises and the memory of hearing gunshots. He was lucky enough not to see him. Not then. He heard gunfire and ran the other way. He was lucky. Too many others weren’t.
I don’t know whether I’ll be able to sleep tonight. It is four in the morning right now. In a few hours I’ll get up, call my work and check if they got my e-mail and confirm the fact that I won’t be able to work. I will go back to Hokksund again and join a memorial moment of silence there before going back to Oslo to join the people marching to mark the fact that our community still stands.
I love Oslo, the city in my heart, and I just want it to be well again. I will not let that bastard win.
And to all you who has shown concern: I remember you all, and am very grateful. All of you have helped in ways I can’t describe. You’ve let me deal with this in my own way, you’ve let me take care of what’s most important to me first, and you’ve shown me so much hospitality I can’t believe it’s even possible. You are all amazing.