Memorial divides survivors 10 years after Norwegian massacre
STAVANGER, Norway (AP) – At 3:25 p.m. on July 22, a ray of sunlight should have illuminated the first of 77 bronze columns on a slice of land in front of the island of Utoya outside the Norwegian capital. Over the next three hours and eight minutes, he reportedly swept through each column in turn, commemorating each person killed by far-right extremist Anders Breivik.
But on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the attack, the memorial remains a construction site. And a monument, cleverly designed to capture the exact duration of the attack in the sun – from a bomb explosion in Oslo to Breivik’s eventual arrest on Utoya – will not be ready.
A mix of changing plans, delays and legal interventions brought parents and survivors into mourning against local residents who say they are still traumatized after seeing and hearing the massacre on Utoya from their sleepy rural village less than a mile across the water.
For some local residents, the delay is a temporary delay in the arrival of visitors they fear will forever disrupt their community. For the parents of the dead and survivors, this is an unforgivable failure.
“It is a beautiful memorial, which has so many different elements that pay homage to the victims, on a beautiful waterfront site within sight of the island. He should have been ready by July 22, ”said Lisbeth Kristin Roeyneland, whose daughter Synne was murdered in the attack, and who now heads a support group for survivors and bereaved families.
“We are very disappointed,” she said. “A lot of families and survivors are angry. ”
Breivik killed eight people in the Oslo bombing before going to Utoya disguised as a police officer and shot dead 69 mostly teenage members of the youth wing of the Labor Party who were camping there.
Dozens more were injured, and many hoped to join the families of their old friends to commemorate this year’s anniversary.
“It is very disappointing that so many survivors and families do not have this place to go. They still don’t have a national monument to the sufferings of that day, ”said Sindre Lysoe, a survivor of the attacks who is now general secretary of the youth wing of the Labor Party.
Bjoern Magnus Ihler, another survivor, said the “puzzling” delays caused “unnecessary pain” to the families of the victims, and compares the process unfavorably with the 9/11 memorial site in New York City, which opened on the 10th anniversary of this attack, and open to the public the next day.
Some commemorative monuments exist. The victims have come from all over Norway, and monuments scattered throughout village parks and public spaces are a reminder of how deeply the tragedy has affected the small country of 5.3 million people.
In Oslo, 1,000 iron roses outside the capital’s cathedral, reproducing the sea of flowers laid by shocked Norwegians in the days following the tragedy, were opened in 2019. On the island of Utoya, a hanging metal ring bears the name of each victim, and the cafe has been transformed into a learning center. It is surrounded by 495 wooden posts representing the survivors and 69 interior posts commemorating the victims.
But the public construction site near the island, promised shortly after the tragedy, remains on the drawing board. Critics accuse the government of having underestimated the scale of the work.
“I think it is a shame that Norway, 10 years after the terrorist attack, does not have an official memorial site near Utoya,” said Tonje Brenna, the former deputy head of the youth wing, and today Labor leader of Viken, the county where Utoya and Oslo stand.
“This is in stark contrast to the fact that young Norwegian Labor have created their own beautiful, respectful and award-winning memorial site on the island,” Brenna said. “The young people have been able to do the task that the Norwegian government has not been able to do. “
A family-backed first plan called “Memory Wound” was scrapped in 2017. Designed by Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg to be visible from Utoya, the plan was to carve out the side of the mountain in front of the island. But local residents – many of whom witnessed the massacre from their homes less than a mile away – have threatened a trial to have him arrested.
The families hoped that the new plan of the 77 bronze statues, designed by Norwegian architect Manthey Kula, would resolve the dispute.
Work began at the end of 2020 on land donated by the youth wing of the Labor Party next to the port.
But 16 local residents of this small village community say they remain traumatized by the attacks and fear that the memorial and the new road leading visitors to the site will disrupt their quiet rural life, forcing them to relive their memories every day. They sued the youth wing of the Labor Party and the government in May, temporarily halting construction.
“Families here were watching what was going on 10 years ago,” said Anne Gry Ruud, a local resident involved in the case. “We have difficult memories of the time.
“We could see people being shot,” she said. “My neighbors are gone. They took their boats and saved some of the children. They also oppose it.
The case was dismissed, but the government decided the window was too small to prepare the site in time for the anniversary.
Hege Njaa Aschim, communications director of the Norwegian government’s real estate development arm Statsbygg, said she was sorry the memorial was not ready, following court challenge, coronavirus quarantine measures and issues planning.
“Without these factors, we could have prepared it,” she said.
As they prepare to commemorate the worst day of their lives, survivors and victims have cast aside their anger at the delay. Roeyneland is a philosopher.
“What can we do?” she asks. “We cannot open a memorial on a construction site.”