Just over a week ago, a blast rang through Oslo, Norway. That sound, a bomb and the first attack of the day by Anti-Muslim extremist Anders Behring Breivik, continues to haunt the otherwise peaceful and neutral country.
On the day of the attacks, Friday, July 22, Quinnipiac professor Pattie Belle Hastings was spending time in her small summer home just south of Oslo with her husband and young daughter.
“We had just returned to the beach community that morning after spending the night in Oslo with my husband’s parents,” Hastings said. “It was an overcast and somewhat rainy afternoon. My daughter and I were in the living room – she was drawing and I was writing emails to QU colleagues and friends.”
They heard what they thought was thunder. About an hour later, when her husband was on CNN’s website, they found out what they heard was actually an explosion.
Immediately, Hastings and her husband turned to the television and switched back and forth between coverage on NRK (Norwegian television) and BBC World News. To Hastings, something about the bombing didn’t quite seem right.
“My husband and I watched the events unfold, the experts speculate and discussed the ideas and the pieces that didn’t fit,” Hastings said.
“The explosion happened at a time when there was the least amount of population in the area. Norwegians go on holiday during the month of July. So much so, that it is hard to accomplish anything in the country during the month of July. Couple that with the timing of about 3:30 on a Friday afternoon and you have the makings of a ghost town in that particular area of Oslo. Why would someone set off a bomb at a time and in an area where the least number of people would be affected?” Hastings asked.
“Watching the footage coming in from downtown Oslo was enlightening. Most of the emergency personnel – ambulance drivers, emergency personnel and police were clearly from immigrant families – African, Pakistani, Indian, etc.,” Hastings said.
Breivik, who has already confessed to the Oslo bombing and youth camp shooting spree which left a combined total of 77 dead, has reasoned his actions as a cultural revolution. His confession has revealed how much he wanted to punish politicians who supported multiculturalism.
“Just as in the US, there has been much discussion about immigration for decades. The right wing in Norway has been vocal about its stand on these issues, but I (and many others) had no idea there was a violent element beneath the surface.”
To Quinnipiac students, Hastings stresses that tolerance is key to preventing future attacks such as this one.
“Extremism happens everywhere and comes in all forms,” Hastings said. “Hate speech fans the flames of extremist thinking to become extremist action. We must root out intolerance of all types. That begins with us. Each individual must work within themselves and with each other to embrace difference and create cultures of tolerance. Every situation such as the attack in Norway is yet another chance to look at ourselves and our own cultures and improve our capacity for acceptance, kindness and openness.”
Professor Hastings describes her, her husband and daughter as a dual-country family.
“It was important to us that our daughter feel a sense of ownership of her Norwegian culture and to create close ties with Norwegian friends and family,” Hastings said.
Her husband, who hails from Oslo, moved to the United States about 20 years ago. They have been married for 18 years. Since then, she has travelled with him to Oslo once or twice a year. For about 10 years, they have owned a summer house south of Oslo which they spend two months in every summer.
From 2008 to 2009, Hastings received a Fulbright Scholar grant, allowing her to live and work in Oslo studying the creative uses of mobile technologies. While there, she worked at the University of Oslo, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, and Atelier Nord at the Kunstnernes Hus.
“I know the city well,” Hastings said.
“Oslo is really my second home.”
SInce July 22, Hastings has found security around the city is noticeably tighter. This particularly hit her when she visited a local mall days after the explosion and saw at least four security guards. For more than 10 years she has shopped at the mall, and could never remember seeing a single security guard at any other time. Also, security guards are now stationed at the entrance of a long tunnel near her house to stop trucks from going through.
She compared the aftermath to how Americans were affected by the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“This event is also bringing the Norwegian people closer together,” Hastings said. “In the same way the events of 2001 brought New Yorkers closer together. More people have been going to downtown Oslo in a show of mourning and support. There are flower and candle memorials being created all over the country. We pass by small ones in traffic circles and in the squares of surrounding towns. I hope that the increased closeness, friendliness and tolerance are lasting.”
Hastings and her family have not yet seen the physical destruction from the bomb in downtown Oslo.
“My daughter has a tremendous fear of going there and we know that we need to help her through that. We want her to see that it is the same wonderful place she has always known,” Hastings said.
They are planning a visit to Oslo with her grandparents in the next week before Hastings and her family return to the United States.
“Not much will have changed for us,” Hastings said. “Just as we became accustomed to heightened security at Grand Central Station and the US airports, we will get used to security changes here in Norway. The expense of traveling here far outweighs any concerns about security or other possible events.”