A boom of thunder woke me with a jolt from a broken slumber this morning. It was exactly the same sort of noise I heard yesterday afternoon, the kind that shook the house. Except what I had initially assumed to be thunder yesterday would turn out to be the result of something truly horrific.
By now the images of a devastated Oslo have been seen across the globe. The scenes following the aftermath of a massive bomb planted in downtown Oslo were as alien to me as the distant war zones seen on TV. Perhaps, more shockingly, news soon started to filter through of a gunman on the rampage on the small island of Utøya, some 25 miles from Oslo, where a summer camp for the Labour Party Youth (AUF) was being held.
As I tentatively went to bed the death toll as a result of the bombing stood at 7, a number that would have been far higher except for the fact that at 3:25pm on a Friday in July there are not many people around in downtown Oslo. The reports coming in from the island of Utøya, however, were unclear and the police had confirmed "9 or 10" casualties.
I've felt a gnawing sense of sickness all day. It seems hatred knows no race or religion, and it's events like these that remind us the depths of evil that the minority of humankind is capable of. However, it's also events like these that give affirmation as to the kindness and decency of the vast majority.
On the surface, Norwegians can seem like a reserved bunch. But don't let this deceive you; scratch a little deeper and get to know them and you will find one of the most tolerant, compassionate, pragmatic, and tough nations. I have every confidence that Norway will bounce back from this with the same sense of tolerance and compassion it has shown in the past.
I'll leave you with this speech from Norway's Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, made on the day of these tragic events:
You will not destroy us.
You will not destroy our democracy,
And our commitment to a better world.
We are a small nation, but a proud nation.
No one will bomb us into silence.
No one will shoot us into silence.
No one will ever scare us from being Norway.
This evening and this night we will take care of each other,
Comfort each other,
Talk to each other,
And stand together.
Tomorrow we will show the world that the Norwegian democracy will be strong when it counts.