Words from Oslo, Norway after the attacks: We will retaliate with more democracy

Marte Ramborg | 8/11/2011, 12:17 p.m.

Editor's note: When the news came of a bombing in Oslo, Norway, my heart sank and I immediately called my dear friend Marte Ramborg, who lives just outside of Oslo. Marte and I met in 1990, when we were among a group of young people helping refugees in Malawi who were fleeing Mozambique. When she answered the phone, I could hear the tears in her voice as she began to give me even more information than we had on American news.

She told me about something going on on the island of Utoya, where the Labor Party ran a camp for young people. The Labor Party, the most progressive political party in Norway, brought young people from all nationalities together to this camp, a place of openness and learning.

As we spoke, she explained how this event was so un-Norwegian and I asked her to write about it. Here she is in her own words, just hours after the attack.

More than 24 hours have passed since Norway was hit by the most violent attacks since World War 2. Yesterday a bomb went off in the center of Oslo, near the government offices. 7 people are reported killed.

We didn't believe it, and called it the end of innocence. Norway is a peaceful place on earth. But then reports came from the Labor Party Youth Summer Camp on Utoya Island in a large lake: "Somebody is shooting at the teenagers".

The first numbers of dead were ten. We wanted to wake up from the nightmare, we couldn't believe that one man could shoot and kill ten young people. This morning we woke up, but the nightmare turned worse. The death toll is now 85.

85 young people, gathered at summer camp to discuss politics. Young people attending a summer camp to be with friends, play soccer and talk about their ideals and how to make a better society: the symbol of democracy. It isn't supposed to be true.

Norway is a small country. We are five million people. We have now lost almost 100. It is our 9/11, and I think the American people can remember the grief you felt. When the names of the victims are published, I am sure all of us will know some of them, or know someone who does. And we all mourn.

Very early speculations were launched. Is this al Qaida? Is it retaliation for being part of the war in Afghanistan, or in Libya? But very early also came the reminders of not letting this go to our heads, not to let racism flourish or judge all Muslims. Our Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's response was this: We will retaliate with more democracy.

The response of our politicians, the press and the entire people are overwhelmingly the same. Norway was a peaceful nation, an open society built on trust and equality. We hold those values high, and will struggle to be able to keep living by them. We will not be bombed to silence or shot into a state of constant fear.