Norway remembers the 22nd of July

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UPDATED: Determined efforts were once again being made on Friday to be sure that Norwegians never forget the 22nd of July in 2011, when 77 people were killed and hundreds scarred for life in a right-wing terrorist’s attacks. Friday’s fifth anniversary of the attacks were being observed all over the country, but memorials will then be toned down until the 10th anniversary in 2021.

This was the view this afternoon towards Norway's long-time government complex, taken at the time a bomb went off next to it exactly five years ago. The tallest building in the middle, called Høyblokka, withstood the blast and will be renovated, while adjacent ministries will be rebuilt. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

This was the view this afternoon towards Norway’s long-time government complex, taken at the time a bomb went off next to it exactly five years ago. The tallest building in the middle, called Høyblokka, withstood the blast and will be renovated, while adjacent ministries will be rebuilt. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The biggest official events on Friday were taking place in Oslo, which was the site of the terrorist’s bomb that severely damaged government headquarters and left eight people dead. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, other government ministers, Members of Parliament and the crown prince and crown princess took part in a ceremony starting at 9:3o Friday morning at the site of the bombing, where the government complex will be rebuilt.

That was followed by an 11am memorial service at the Oslo Cathedral, which played a major role as a gathering place for Norwegians to grieve, seek support from one another and lay down enormous piles of flowers, candles and personal items to honour the dead.

All the names of the 77 victims of the bombing and subsequent massacre at the Labour Party’s youth camp on the island of Utøya were read aloud, both at the government site (Regjeringskvartal) ceremony and on Utøya. “By reading aloud all the names, we’re remembering the 77 who were killed and what they stood for,” said Lisbeth Røyneland, leader of the national support group for victims of the July 22 attacks who lost her own daughter Synne on Utøya. “We think it’s a fine and dignified way of marking the fifth anniversary.”

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit laid down wreaths at the morning memorial ceremony for the victims of Norway's terrorist attacks five years ago, PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit laid down wreaths at the morning memorial ceremony for the victims of Norway’s terrorist attacks five years ago, PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.nof

There were also speeches and wreath-layings, both at the bombing site and later on Utøya, which Crown Prince Haakon was visiting for the first time. Solberg and Jonas Gahr Støre, the former foreign minister who now heads the Labour Party that was attacked, will also be present at the memorial on Utøya, where a new exhibit preserves both murder and survival sites and shares the desperate text messages exchanged between terrified targets of the shooting and their parents.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was Norway’s prime minister five years ago and head of the Labour Party that was a target of the attacks, was also taking part in Friday’s ceremonies in Oslo and on Utøya. He flew to Oslo from Washington DC where he’d just led a meeting of the international coalition fighting the ISIL terrorist group in the Middle East, and spoke in the Cathedral about how preserving core values like tolerance, freedom and demoracy can help fight terrorism.

Røyneland told news bureau NTB that one of every four Norwegians is acquainted with people who were directly affected by the attacks of July 22. “The entire country was hit by this, so it’s important for many that the day is also observed locally,” Røyneland told NTB.

At the Oslo Cathedral, exactly 77 candles, intersersed with roses, were laid down and lit to honour each of the victims of the attacks on July 22, 2011. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

At the Oslo Cathedral, exactly 77 candles, interspersed with roses, were laid down and lit to honour each of the victims of the attacks on July 22, 2011. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Several communities were holding ceremonies at the site of their own July 22 monuments to local victims. In Hedmark and Oppland counties, for example, official ceremonies were taking place in Gjøvik, Hamar and Stange. Seven of the victims came from Hedmark and Oppland, and 54 local residents survived the massacre on Utøya.

In Bodø in Northern Norway, there would be speeches, music and wreath-laying at 6pm at the city’s cathedral. Similar ceremonies were planned in Trondheim at 2pm in the park at City Hall, at 3pm at the monument in Bardu, at 4:30pm in Sarpsborg’s Kirkeparken and at 7pm at Teie Hovedgård in Vestfold. The Molde Jazz Festival was also making room for a remembrance, in cooperation with the local bishop, with a ceremony in the Molde Cathedral at 3pm.

The national support group has announced earlier that after Friday’s ceremonies, it will “be natural to tone down” the official public memorials in the years leading up the 10th anniversary. “We haven’t discussed how we’ll mark the day in the coming years,” Røyneland said, while others including Prime Minister Solberg said they will likely be of a more private nature.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund