It’s been eight years since Norwegians impulsively laid down thousands of roses outside Oslo’s Cathedral to honor the 77 people killed in a right-wing terrorist’s attacks on the government and the Labour Party. Now a thousand roses made of iron have risen at the same spot, part of a new permanent memorial to the victims of a white supremacist.
“The iron roses have come home to symbolize and show the thoughts we had, and that we must never, never, never forget what happened,” said Raymond Johansen, who was secretary of the Labour Party when the attacks were carried out on July 22, 2011. Now he leads Oslo’s city government, and was thus responsible for unveiling the memorial over the weekend along with the leader of the victims’ national support group, Lisbeth Røyneland.
The iron roses, all of them different, have been created by both survivors of the attacks, relatives of the victims and well-wishers from around the world. Tobbe Malm, who initiated the project, has received roses from more than than 25 countries at his smithery in suburban Bærums Verk. Roses have also been made out of copper, bronze, silver and glass.
Those made by the survivors and victims’ families are arranged at the center of the memorial, surrounded by all the others. “The response (to the project) was hefty,” Malm told Norwegian Broadcastng (NRK) when he was still assembling roses last summer. “I thought we’d maybe get a couple hundred roses, but it’s been overwhelming.”
Johansen said the memorial itself had a much stronger effect on him than he’d expected. He believes it’s also important to remember how people streamed to the cathedral during the days following the attacks on the nearby government headquarters in Oslo, which was bombed, and on the island of Utøya, where 69 members of Labour’s youth organization AUF were massacred.
“So many folks in Oslo and other places came here and expressed themselves with roses (long a symbol of the Labour Party),” Johansen said. “There was pain and sorrow that was indescribable.” He remembers how devastated he and other party officials felt, “but we had to lead and had a huge task before us, both for Norwegian society, the party and our community.” Labour’s initial crisis team was set up near the cathedral, and it’s also been the site of annual memorial ceremonies.
Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit attended the unveiling of the new memorial on Saturday, along with many survivors. “This is fantastic,” said Røyneland, whose own daughter was killed by the white supremacist on Utøya. Røyneland made one of the roses herself.
“This also symbolizes solidarity,” she told news bureau NTB. “When thousands of people showed their solidarity, here at this place, with us who lost our children and other family members, it shows how much goodness is found in people. That’s what we need to remember.”