Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg´s speech at the 5 years commemoration after the terror attacks in Norway, 22 July 2011.
Dear next of kin
Five years ago today, former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland visited a dreary Utøya Island. The ground was wet, so she borrowed the green rubber boots belonging to a young girl called Bano Rashid, a member of the Labour Party’s youth wing. A simple and friendly gesture in the spirit of Utøya.
Meanwhile, in the government quarter, men and women,
known for their expertise and competence,
were getting on with their important duties.
Utøya was still the most peaceful place on earth.
Enthusiastic young people were discussing politics.
Minor injuries were dressed after fun and games.
Couples met and walked together on the path known as the Lovers’ Path.
Suddenly, the peace was broken. We were under attack.
First the government quarter, eight lives were lost.
While still in shock, we received the first messages from Utøya.
The Labour Party’s youth wing, the Labour Party and Norway all lost 69 lives that day.
Brutally gunned down and killed
The young people we lost had their whole lives in front of them.
Birthdays, marriages, children were still unwritten chapters.
They were going to fight for matters they believed in, experience both victory and defeat.
Life’s moments of joy and challenges were still on the horizon.
All torn away from them.
Families lost their loved ones.
Many of us lost our friends.
Norway lost 77 irreplaceable lives.
But the brutalities of that day also brought out the best in our country.
The volunteers who risked everything to save others.
The health services that saved the lives of so many.
The police and rescue teams who were faced with their most trying moments.
The judiciary who firmly believed in the rule of law in the difficult months that followed.
The bereavement support group who helped those who had lost their loved ones cope with the sorrow and anger with dignity and care.
The ‘rose march’ tribute that brought Norway together and where sharing our sorrow and solidarity only made us stronger.
22 July brought forth what we want to be, individually and in concert.
Norway, “our little country”, passed the test.
Thank you all.
But the bitter and dearly purchased chapters are also part of history.
The descriptions we received of what and where we had failed were plain and honest.
The lessons learned bring with it an obligation.
Sorrow is a long road.
Wounds inflicted by terror never heal.
Scars never fade.
We never get over the pain of our loss.
But like our writer Lars Saabye Christensen wrote:
“I see: the sorrow is of a solid material
We are the blacksmiths of sorrow, we hammer it,
We twist it, we bend it and we shape it.
Until we realise: the sorrow cannot diminish the past."
The terror hit innocent people.
Randomly, but not blindly.
It sought to undermine the core of our democracy.
The government quarter – the very symbol of our democracy.
Young politicians at a summer camp. What better way of depicting their involvement and social responsibility?
The next generation of political leaders.
It was an attack against a society built on trust and transparency.
22 July has left a permanent scar on our history.
But the brutal reality is that there are many more dates.
Brussels 22 March
Orlando 12 June
Nice 14 July
Paris 7 January and 13 November
Ankara 17 February, 13 March and 10 October
In Kabul and Baghdad nearly every week.
The terror shall be fought.
With intelligence, police and military force.
But also with values.
It will take time,
but we will win,
Because our values are supreme.
Freedom is better than “unfreedom”.
Tolerance is better than intolerance.
Respect for life is better than contempt for life.
After 22 July, we defended our open and democratic society.
It safeguarded us against violence.
It became our shield.
The values under attack were the same values that we wanted to protect.
They became our defence.
Before Mrs Brundtland left the island she returned the rubber boots to Bano.
Bano died on Utøya, but she and the others continue to live within us – and with us.
We honour them by displaying even more openness and democracy.