Local Norwegians react to worst attack since WWII

Sixty years ago, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge were dominated byNorwegians. Although the population has decreased significantly,there is still a small but closely-knit community in the area thathas been shocked and appalled by the recent attacks in theirhomeland.

Arlene Rutuelo, owner of Nordic Delicacies in Bay Ridge, wasvacationing in the southern part of Norway on Friday, July 22, whenthe country suffered its worst attack since World War II as a bombdetonated in the center of the city of Oslo. Roughly 25 miles awayon the island of Utoya, a gunman dressed in a police officer’suniform opened fire on a campsite where a teen group affiliatedwith Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labor Party was meeting.

Like many of those within Bay Ridge’s local Norwegian community,Rutuelo reacted in horror to the events transpiring on hertelevision.

[The gunman] told the kids to come near him, she said. Andwhen they came towards him, he shot them execution style.

As of Monday, July 25, police confirmed that at least eightpeople had died from the bombing, and 68 of the approximately 700students at the camp have been killed, bringing the official deathtoll to 76. Anders Behring Breivik, 32, was arrested in connectionwith both the bombing and the shooting, and charged with two countsof terrorism.

Rutuelo says that even at her remote location, the Norwegiancitizens were clearly rattled. Everyone here is numb, she said.And the government and radio is trying to alleviate people’sfears, but they don’t really know what’s going on.

Back in Brooklyn, second generation Norwegian Bob Carlson isdeeply concerned. It’s absolutely terrible, he said, adding: Ifeel very sad for the loss of life and what they’re going through.I just hope my friends living there are safe.

Victoria Hofmo, president of the Scandinavian East Coast Museumexpressed anger at the attacks. This is just arbitrary, Hofmosaid. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it – to attack kids in acamp?

At a closed-door custody hearing on Monday, July 25, Breivik, aso-called right wing and a Christian fundamentalist according topolice, claimed that his goal was to send a strong signal againstincreasing multiculturalism that he believes has been perpetuatedby Norway’s ruling party. He also maintained that while he actedalone, he was part of a larger organization with two cells inEurope that collaborated with him prior to the attacks.

Irene Hanvey, a trustee for local Norwegian organizationSporting Club Gjoa, is concerned that the attacks could inspire acrackdown in Norway’s security similar to what happened in the U.S.following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This wasreally a shock, Hanvey said. They’re going to have to be on alertlike we are now.

Rutuelo, in Norway for the rest of the month, worries about anation that has had their perception of living in a safety bubbleseverely compromised.

Tragedy is always tragedy, she said. But when it happens insuch a small country, you can see the ricochets of fear among thepeople.

Heather J. Chin contributed reporting to thisarticle.

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