Friday's mass shooting and bombing in Norway were shocking precisely because they happened in Norway, several Minnesotans with ties to that country said Friday.
"We're used to thinking about Norway as a very quiet and safe place," said Terje Mikalsen, 70, of Minneapolis, who helps businesses trying to develop markets in Norway and the United States. He was in Oslo three weeks ago. "I suppose that's changing now.
"I'm old enough to remember a few episodes from the war, but this is truly different from anything that's happened in Norway," Mikalsen added.
Norway's crisis has special resonance in Minnesota, home to many of Norwegian heritage and many repositories of Norwegian-American culture.
Christina Espey-Sundt, 21, of Minneapolis is a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield who has spent every summer of her life in Norway and is currently living in Oslo. She said that even though terrorism has been a significant factor for half her life -- certainly since Sept. 11, 2001 -- Friday's violence was "a complete shock." "I never thought anything like this would happen in Norway," she said.
As she rode home on public transportation, there was dead silence among passengers and few people on the streets.
Though no curfew was in effect, Espey-Sundt said residents of Oslo were told not to go downtown after the bombing.
"Right now I'm pretty scared," she said in a telephone interview just before midnight Oslo time. "I didn't even want to leave the house tonight." The prime minister, in an address Friday, said residents would have to find the balance between living in an open democracy and "not being naive," Espey-Sundt said. She said she regarded the shootings at a sort of political training camp and the bombing at the government center as an attack on the core Norwegian values of openness and democracy.
Kristin Sundt, Espey-Sundt's mother and the pastor at Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis, said the events were "very disconcerting."
"This is not supposed to happen in Norway. It's just unbelievable. They want people to stay at home. I've never heard that advice before.
"It's a very safe country," she added. "There's not a lot of security. ... Even the king can go out and live among the people."
Sundt and her daughter described Oslo as a diverse, entertaining and historic city, with a growing immigrant population that has somehow managed to avoid the social and political tensions so common in capitals around the globe. Kristin Sundt said Norway's participation in NATO bombing of Libya may have made it a terrorist target, even though links to Islamic terrorists weren't clear Friday. Espey-Sundt said Norway's quiet emergence as an international leader in energy and other fields also may have raised the country's profile.
Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, who recently served as Norway's honorary consul general in Minneapolis, was on a fishing trip in Canada Friday and could not be reached for comment.
Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646