Tough Christmas looms for many

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Oslo’s cathedral, called Domkirken, became a gathering place last summer after a terrorist set off two attacks that left 77 persons dead, scores wounded and hundreds traumatized. On Thursday the cathedral will welcome mourners yet again as they seek solace at what’s supposed to be a joyful time of the year.

The clock on Oslo's cathedral (Domkirken) was damaged during the bombing just a few blocks away. The historic cathedral quickly emerged as a gathering place for mourners and memorials, while mounds of flowers and candles piled up outside. Survivors of the attacks will return for a pre-Christmas memorial on Thursday. PHOTO: Views and News

December 22 marks five months since the terrorist bombed government headquarters in Oslo and then traveled to a Labour Party summer camp on the island of Utøya, where he targeted Labour’s younger generation. Hundreds survived, but must live with the horrific memories of July 22 for the rest of their lives.

This Christmas will be an especially difficult one for the friends, colleagues, parents and other family members of those killed. As the president of Norway’s Parliament, Dag Terje Andersen, noted during a ceremonial pre-holiday luncheon for MPs on Monday, there will be empty places around far too many holiday dinner tables this year.

Members of the Labour youth organization AUF plan to gather at the cathedral on Thursday evening to light candles, sing songs and mostly just be together. Queen Sonja will represent the royal family, which maintained a high and comforting profile during the worst of the attacks’ aftermath.

AUF leader Eskil Pedersen will speak, as will Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party. The event, which begins at 6pm, is meant mostly for AUF members, but the cathedral will be open for others wanting to take part as well.

The five-month anniversary in the midst of the Christmas season has led to a spate of reflections on the state of the nation after terror struck. Some worry that the solidarity and patriotism so evident in the days following the attacks has waned, while debate continues over Norway’s preparedness for terror and emergency response. The political truce that lasted for weeks among Norway’s political parties has long since dissolved, replaced by quarreling and an apparent need to find scapegoats in the wake of the attacks.

“In just five months, Norway has gone from being a friendly, free and democratic land of flowers to one where politicians fight until tears start flowing,” columnist Hanne Mauno wrote in newspaper Dagsavisen last week. “What has happened to my little country? Is it still there?”

She and others think so, or at least hope so.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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