A YETHOLM couple in Norway this week spoke of people’s shock after the worst peacetime massacre in that country’s modern history.
On Friday, 76 people died in the twin terror attacks when a gunman killed at least 68 people at a youth camp on the island of Utoya and a massive bomb blast shattered buildings in the capital Oslo, killing at least eight.
Borderers Margaret and Michael Rustad, who have a small farm near Oslo and divide their time between Norway and Yetholm, described how their house, nine miles from the capital, shook in the blast.
In an email to friends on Sunday, Mrs Rustad said: “We are safe. This is a great shock for Norwegians.”
She was at the local shop when she heard the blast on Friday afternoon.
“I heard the sound of either thunder or someone dragging a very heavy wardrobe overhead. The checkout assistant and I both pulled a face and muttered about thunder – it was a warm and muggy day, so nothing to be surprised about.”
But when she returned home, she said: “I asked Michael if he’d heard it, and he said, ‘That wasn’t thunder; someone’s been blasting with dynamite, and it made the house shake!’
“People blast a lot here because you can’t build or construct without digging out rock, but there had been no siren sounding before the blast, which is obligatory. Then we heard about the bomb.
“We don’t have TV but managed to glean a little from the radio, although at that point it was very confused, and of course we heard nothing about the shootings then.
“Although the city is about 15 km as the crow flies from us, it’s mostly uninterrupted fjord, which is why we would feel the blast.”
She spoke of the shock the Norwegians felt and said most people in the country will have experienced loss. “Michael’s nephew’s partner lost her stepmother in the bombing, and it’s likely that most people will have been similarly touched by loss, given the small population.
“At church this morning there was a strong sense of mutual support and strength, as well as perhaps the beginnings of self-examination. Yesterday it came across that the church was there, hands-on, ministering to the people on the island, giving counselling and prayer.
Mrs Rustad spoke of the initial feelings in the country immediately after the cold-blooded killings.
“Norwegians are very nice people, decent, honest, friendly. The instinctive reaction, to blame someone else, somehow would have been ‘easier’ in a way, but this atrocity is home-grown and nobody else can be responsible.”
Suspect Anders Behring Breivik, 32, has admitted carrying out both attacks.
Yesterday one person still remained missing after the shootings on Utoeya Island and the first names of victims were being released.
The BBC reported that up to 250,000 people poured on to the streets of Oslo on Monday, many of them raising up flowers in memory of the people who died. And Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told them: “By taking part, you are saying a resounding ‘yes’ to democracy.”
The bomb in the capital targeted buildings connected to the Labour Party government and the youth camp was run by the party.
In addition to those who died, at least 96 people were injured in the attacks and yesterday many remained in hospital.
The day after the tragedy, Yetholm hosted the Kelso Laddie and supporters from around the Borders when minister Rev Robin McHaffie included the people of Norway in the prayer he led.