Local Norwegians mourn homeland terror attacks


Friday's violent attacks in Norway rocked that country, but it also sent a shockwave to thousands of ex-patriots living abroad, including the Bay Area. Sunday was a day of mourning for the country that was ground zero for twin terror attacks in Oslo and the island of Utoya. For local Norwegians, there was only one place to go.

At the Norwegian church in San Francisco, Sunday services were filled with prayer, song and disbelief.

"We used to be such a peaceful corner of the world," said Rev. Halfdan Bondevik. "This struck us so suddenly."

Friday's bomb attack on a government building in Oslo and a shooting spree at a young Labor Party summer camp on the island of Utoya left more than 90 people dead and nearly 100 wounded. The attack rocked Norway with a level of violence it hadn't seen since World War II.

As Norway's King and Queen mourned at a special memorial service and thousands took to the streets, the Bay Area's Norwegian community grieved too.

"Even though I know I don't have any family members involved in this, it's a complete horror for everybody," said Mette Hopstock of Marin.

Outside, the Norwegian flag flew at half staff.

Inside, mourners left messages of hope for their homeland, and tried to comprehend the accused gunman's professed hatred of his government and the surge of Muslims who now call Norway their home.

"You can sort of understand, but absolutely not accept, his rationale for doing this," said Knut Akseth. "It is a loner's reaction to an influx in a country that has, for a thousand years, been homogenous."

Dr. Patrick Hatcher, who teaches international security policy, says the attacks in Norway should also remind the United States about the threat of home-grown terrorists.

"He is excusing the fact that he has killed, not these immigrants, but his own people," said Hatcher. "Over 90 people are now dead because of his hatred toward his own government."

Norwegian locals say it will take time to make sense of it all, but for now they are simply numb.

The death toll from the attacks in Norway is at 93, but officials say that number is likely to go up. There are many who stil remain missing at both crime scenes.

Anders Breivik, the man who has confessed to both terror attacks, will now go through the Norwegian court system. In Norway, there is no death penalty, and the maximum sentence for any crime is 21 years.

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