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Visit to Norway sad for many reasons

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 By SCOTT FINNEN

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Special to the Citizen

Most people, when they think of Norway, think of Fjords; grass covered roofs and idyllic landscapes; and for most of us, it is just a postcard or a picture in a book.  

I feel I have been blessed because Norway has been my second home, and I have been back there twenty or thirty times visiting my mother’s family and my friends over the years in her native country. 

However, last week, my trip to Norway was struck with sadness. 

 My grandmother passed away at 95 years old after fighting a 10-year battle with cancer. This was a woman who loved life.   I remember her on roller-blades at 83, playing soccer in her 70s, and telling stories of her life under German occupation in WW II.  

She was always a joy to be around and was one of those people that after meeting her you just did not forget.

But my sorrow was minor compared to the tragedy that Norway suffered a few days after my grandmother’s death. 

On July 22, in the Norwegian capitol of Oslo, the Prime Minister’s headquarters was rocked by a bomb explosion at 3:30 p.m. The building had the front of it completely ripped off and seven people died. 

While all this was going on, my uncle was at a café some 350 yards away. This first attack threw the city of Oslo into turmoil.  

The country of Norway does not have any enemies to speak of, and their police do not even carry guns. 

The bomb was made of fertilizer —similar to the one used by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City— and caused windows to be blown out of buildings for blocks away. It even trapped the fire department in their station some 400 yards away. Their response was delayed due to the fact that their station doors had frozen shut in the blast and had to be manually removed to respond to the blast.

In typical Al-Qaida style, two hours later there was a second attack at a small island 25 miles away from the city, called Utøya. 

A man dressed as a police officer showed up to a youth political rally of young people — what we in this country would call Young Democrats, but there it’s called the Labor Party— to check on them after the blast. As he began to gather them up, he reached into his bag and began to shoot people at random.

People where hiding behind rocks; swimming away; and he continued to shoot at them with his rifle from the shore. The gunman killed about 70 people during the hour and 20 minutes he had on the island before police were able to respond with an armed SWAT team. Local police had no guns.

Upon the team’s arrival, imagine their surprise when the attacker gave up right away and admitted to the bombing in Oslo as well. 

Surprise, he was a home-grown Norwegian. A lone wolf as it were, planning this attack for more than  nine years by the name of Anders Behring Breivik.  

It initially was easy to think of Norway as joining the fraternity of nations that has been inducted into the victims of Muslim extremism, but it was not to be. It was simply a person upset at the way his government was run and was lashing out in his twisted logic in an attempt to fix it.

While visiting the site of the bombing last week, I was humbled to see the sea of flowers covering the area.  

As the people kept coming in every day, more and more flowers appeared, covering up almost a block along the street.  

Not all of the flowers came from Norwegians. As I was walking around the city, two different American couples hearing me speak English, had flowers in their hands and asked me directions to the site so they could lay flowers. 

I thought for a second we can morn as a nation at our ally’s loss, but at some level it becomes personal and we grieve for everyone in this tragedy.  

Remember Norway in prayers in the days ahead. They have a lot of decisions to make in the near future for their country and the way they live their life.

Scott Finnen resides in Levy County with his family. He is a lieutenant in the Levy County Sheriff's Office. He is Communications Center Director and Agency Training Coordinator.