Friday, August 19, 2011


The Blue Stone in the middle of Bergen where people leave flowers.
Every day, the city clears them away and people bring new ones. 

The young woman who sat beside me let a quick, focused frown cross her face. It might have been thoughtful, or angry, but from our conversation of the past few minutes I figured it was the only sign she’d show that she was not about to let another emotion take over.

Flowers stuck in a fence near a
building that was attacked in Oslo

She is one of my high school students in my English class, and she had just come from a memorial for two of her closest friends, who were killed in the Oslo attacks on July 22nd. She was worried about starting high school, and about the upcoming elections in which she felt she had to play an even larger part campaigning now that several of her friends weren’t there to help, and, of course, worried about coping with the emotional trauma she’s been through. She presented a weird blend of kid and adult. I was impressed by her maturity and determination to power through, and stymied by my inability to tell her that everything would be okay. All I could offer was help getting through this.

At roughly the same time that we sat in the hallway outside of the English classroom, another country was dealing with terror. Israel is one hour ahead of Norway, time zone-wise, and Thursday, as I comforted a Norwegian suffering from fallout of the Oslo terror attacks at 11am, Israelis on a bus near Eilat at 12 pm were being shot at in the beginning of what became an eight-hour terror attack.

Egged bus 392 after the attack
In Norway I’ve seen people cope with the destruction of security, stability, identity as a peaceful country. Israelis shouldn’t have to deal with that; it’s not a country where people assume safety. But the anger and fear and loss and trauma and desperate helplessness that hit when terrorists strike all bob up nonetheless. I know that, in some ways, the terrorists in each of these cases want to represent themselves as on opposite sides. But at the end of the day, what’s left are the survivors, and the victims’ families, and a picture of a smiling student on a screen where there should have been a kid ready to start their first year of high school. The innocent should not have to suffer.

We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.

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