Early this month I travelled from Norway down to Rionero in Vulture, Basilicata, Italy to participate in the Vultur Project, a wonderful archaeological investigation funded by the university of Alberta. Very soon I am going to create another blog to document my life and learning here in Rionero, to which I will post a link on this blog. As I have already at this time been here for three weeks however my new blog is going to lag a bit behind, but after the things that happened in Norway on Friday I felt I had to write this post right now about my experiences of it.
There are about 58 people here joining the project this year, most of whom are Canadians and Americans. We are also many Scandinavians here, and particularly Norwegians. Seven of my class mates in the archaeology program in Bergen are participating in this six week dig as well, and there are a handful of more experienced Norwegian archaeologists/archaeology students here. All in all we number thirteen.
Since we came down here we haven’t paid much attention to the news. We were initially almost completely cut off from internet for weeks and most of us can’t read newspapers in Italian. Since about 5 o’clock Friday afternoon however we have been glued to anything that may provide news, computer screens to read online, TV screens in a restaurant to watch images on an Italian news program and cell phones close to our ear to call home and make sure everyone we know in Oslo are all right. When something new is reported we all now within minutes, news travelling like wildfire among us, across the dighouse.
On Friday afternoon a bomb went off in a governmental building in Oslo, killing at least seven and injuring a large number. A couple of hours later we got the next shocking message. A man had disguised himself as a policeman and traveled to the youth camp of the main socialist party in Norway, the party currently in government, and gone on a killing spree on the small secluded island. The news just kept getting bigger and bigger. Some said ten were dead, then one paper reported 20-30, then Saturday morning we heard that at least 80 had died just in the shooting. The number has by now risen to one hundred.
For a group of young Norwegian students abroad at the time this happened, it has so far been a disorienting time. We have been busy with stuff to do and places to see, and meanwhile these news have been looming in the back of our heads. Out of 7-800 young and politically engaged people about one hundred died in one day on the island of Utøya. The exact number is not yet known. About half of the Norwegians here knows someone who knows someone. One of us knows someone who survived but in desperation had to swim to safety. One of us knows only that a cousin sent a message from her cell phone when she was hiding in the water and that nothing has been heard from her since. She is now missing. Tonight, we all sat in a bunch in the hallway, just talking together and trying to settle our confusion.
They say that as the bomb went off and every ambulance, firetruck and police unit available flocked to the capital, the man responsible sat calmly on a train out of it. Many things are still unclear, but the image of him has already gone around the world. They say that he had been to Utøya many times before, getting to know the island and its hiding places. On Friday afternoon he walked around shooting for one and a half hour. They say that after killing over one hundred people he walked calmly into the hands of the police, the world and the justice that the Norwegian justice department can provide him.
I never intended to write about news events or politics while I was here in Italy, and I will probably wait until after I come home before I try to focus and process it a bit more. But this has had such a big impact on all the Norwegians here and our whole weekend, and probably also on the rest of our stay here and our return, that I wanted to write about it now. I imagine already that the date 7/22 is going to hold a 9/11 kind of meaning to Norway and Norwegians in the future, especially since it is a small country and there are so few of us. This is going to impact each and everyone here.