Norwegians are marking the first anniversary of twin attacks that killed 77 people, the worst atrocity carried out in the country since World War II.
Commemorative events are taking place across the country on Sunday, a year after 33-year-old Anders Behring Breivik set off a bomb near a government building in Oslo and then went on a shooting rampage on nearby Utoeya Island.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg laid a wreath in Oslo before joining hundreds of people in Utoeya, including the families of those who were killed.
“The killer failed; the people have won,” said Stoltenberg.
“The bomb and bullets were aimed at changing Norway. The Norwegian people responded by embracing our values. Let us honour the dead by being happy about the life they had, and the life we share.”
Stoltenberg was speaking to around 1,000 members of the league, the youth section of the party, several of whom were survivors of last year’s assault. The audience bowed their heads as he spoke.
“Even now, after a year has passed, it is impossible to fully comprehend the extent of the fear and suffering…” on the island last year, he said.
“This makes all that has happened since then even more impressive.”
Minute of silence
Speaking on Utoeya island, he said young people had refused to accept that anyone should die because of their beliefs and had responded to the attacks by becoming more politically active.
Norway’s Prime Minister reflects on massacre one year on
The island ceremony began with a minute of silence and two songs sung by survivor Renate Taarnes, who saw her boyfriend killed.
“Even though we carry a heavy burden, we are still standing,” said Eskil Pedersen, leader of the party’s youth wing, who himself escaped the gunman’s bullet at the start of the massacre.
“He took some of our loveliest roses, but he could not stop the springtime.”
Breivik, on July 22, 2011, killed 69 people on the island, where the ruling Labour Party’s youth wing was hosting a summer camp. Eight people were killed in the blast in the capital earlier that day.
Religious services and commemorative gatherings will also be held from the very south of the country to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, about 1,100km from the North Pole.
Stoltenberg, who made a deep impression shortly after the massacre with his vow that Norway’s response to the bloodbath would be “more democracy, more openness and more humanity, but never naivety,” will be present at many of the events.
The Labour Party leader, along with Norway’s king and queen, took part in a service at the city’s cathedral, which in the weeks after the attacks was surrounded by an ocean of roses left by mourners.
The Labour prime minister in neighbouring Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was also scheduled to speak on Utoeya, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a message of sympathy to the Norwegian people for this “enormous tragedy”.
Labour Party leader Pedersen last week hailed Norway’s reaction to the tragedy.
“There are… a few things that have developed in the right direction,” he told the NTB news agency, saying he was especially pleased that political youth groups had seen their membership numbers soar.
“We have more democracy now because more people are participating,” he said.
Breivik, whose 10-week trial ended last month, is meanwhile awaiting his verdict.
While there is no doubt he carried out the attacks, the five Oslo court judges must decide if he should be considered criminally sane and sentenced to prison, as requested by his defence, or instead follow the prosecution’s line and send him to a closed psychiatric ward.
The verdict should be announced on August 24.