It was a sparkling August day in Oslo today as we got out into this vibrant and clean city to meet some of the local people who make it that way. But first, in the lobby, we discussed the events that devastated the country on July 22 when a Norwegian madman killed 77 people with his bomb and shooting attack.
In the city center, the government building that was bombed is draped with white sheeting, no longer accessible closer than a block away viewed through the other buildings. We watched people putting flowers outside the cathedral along with poignant notes left there for the innocent victims.
Eva and Annette of the Tourism bureau talked about their country’s realization that there are lunatics everywhere, and they said that the country’s reaction to the tragedy has been more democracy. “It unified us. Let’s treat each other well now, and let this bring us together instead of what the gunman wanted which was division.”
One quote that’s been cited is “if so much hatred was in one man, imagine how much love we can respond with.” On August 22, a national day of mourning will be held across Norway.
We met with Bente Erichsen, a former movie producer who is now the head of the Nobel Peace Museum, set in a former railway station by the harbor, where there is a large bandstand and plaza. She said that in the days after the bombing, this waterfront site was filled with more than 200,000 people, all there to hear the President and the King speak about the events. The ovations received by the men were emotional, loud and long, and it made me remember the days after 9/11 in the US when we felt that same embrace, wanting to be comforted by our leaders.
The Nobel Peace Center features innovative displays that make good use of technology created by American David Small to better tell the stories. A current exhibit called “Transit” takes the visitor into the lives of many different people from around the world who are displaced, using dramatic photographs and videos and highlighting their own quotes to tell their stories of suffering the effects of becoming refugees.
In one room a sea of ipads are attached by flexible wires with changing text about each Nobel Prize winner, and with LED-tipped reeds that glow blue on top, giving a calming effect. We asked Bente about what it’s like to deal with so much speculation and often, disappointment in who the Nobel Committee will choose to give their lucrative yearly prize to. “We never have any idea, and people always speculate…they place bets on it in London,” she said. Her focus is on the exhibits which are coming up which include photographs of US soldiers in Afghanistan by Tim Hethrington (who was killed working in Libya this year) and a show called “Veiled Rebellion,” by photographer Lindsey Addario about women in the same country.