Thousands Gather on Utoya Island and in Oslo to Commemorate Bombing, Shooting Spree That Left 77 Dead.
Thousands gathered Sunday in two locations that have become sacred ground in Norway to commemorate the anniversary of the worst terror attack the nation has witnessed on home soil.
About 1,500 victims and relatives visited Utoya Island to remember those killed by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011, during a summer youth camp. At a key point in the ceremony, mothers, fathers and siblings of victims stood on a beach and slipped floating lanterns into the waves of Tyrifjorden lake, which surrounds the heart-shaped island.
Thousands more assembled in the streets of Oslo, 25 miles to the southeast, placing flowers outside Oslo Cathedral. Dignitaries, including Norway's king and queen, the prime minister and the leader of the Labor Party youth, the group Mr. Breivik targeted, attended a wreath-laying ceremony that was tightly policed.
"Today I'm going to think about what happened to me and mine, and about those we lost," Bjorn Ihler, who helped two young boys hide from the killer on Utoya until police arrived. "I'm [also] going to think about all the families of those who survived…this year has been a heavy blow to them."
Norwegians commemorated the attacks just days after a gunman in the U.S. killed 12 people and injured dozens of others at a theater in Colorado.
In many of the comments and speeches in Norway on Sunday, those close to victims and national leaders vowed to maintain the open and democratic atmosphere of the country, despite Mr. Breivik's bombing of a government block in central Oslo, killing eight, followed by a shooting spree on Utoya, killing another 69.
"The bomb and the shots were meant to change Norway," Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech at the wreath ceremony. "The Norwegian people answered by embracing our values."
Norway's King Harald laid a wreath of white roses during the event.
The ceremonies concluded with a concert in Oslo attended by 50,000 to 60,000 people. Bruce Springsteen was among the artists who performed, appearing on stage in a leather jacket with a harmonica around his neck. "We pray for a peaceful future for Norway," Mr. Springsteen said before launching into an acoustic version of "We Shall Overcome" with band mate Steven Van Zandt. An audience clad in raincoats waved red roses, just as people did during rose parades last summer.
Nancy Rislaa didn't care about the rain, and was still carrying roses after "spreading them all over town" in remembrance of those who died. "It's a way to treat the sorrow. It was a hard blow we suffered," she said. "We didn't get to take part of the ceremonies last year. We were in Skjolden by the [west coast] Sognefjord, but our entire holiday was destroyed [by what happened July 22]. We might as well have gone home."
Toward the end of the concert, artist Lillebjorn Nilsen sang the Norwegian version of Pete Seeger's "My Rainbow Race," a popular children's tune. Mr. Breivik said in court that the song was "indoctrination" of children to embrace a multicultural society; his comments led Norwegians to stage spontaneous singing demonstrations around the country during his trial in the spring.
On the VIP stage, the prime minister, other ministers, members of parliament, Crown Prince Haakon and the entire crowd joined the choir, waving flowers in the air.
While the anniversary could help further heal this relatively peaceful nation, Mr. Breivik promises to remain center stage in coming weeks. Authorities in mid-August will release a report on Norway's response to the attack, and it could address some of the criticisms that have emerged, including the lack of a police helicopter in the moments after the tragedy. Mr. Breivik will be sentenced Aug. 24.
On Sunday, however, the focus was on those whom Mr. Breivik admits to having killed.
"Today we are mums, dads, siblings, aunts, grandparents, husbands and wives, partners and families, gathered to honor those who never came back to us like they should," Vanessa Svebakk, mother of the youngest Utoya victim, 14-year-old Sharidyn Svebakk-Bohn, said during the evening commemoration. Raindrops dotted the pictures of the young faces on a wooden board set up at the beach, where families posted pictures of the victims, and the waves and wind carried away the brightly colored paper lanterns, while family members embraced each other.
Members of the Labor Party youth bowed in respect of their lost comrades as their leader, Eskil Pedersen, asked for a minute of silence. "It wasn't a nightmare, it was reality," Mr. Pedersen said, reminding comrades about all the good memories they also had from the island.
Renate Tårnes, 22, witnessed her boyfriend Sondre Haller being shot dead in front of her on Utoya. On Sunday, she was back on the island, singing two songs in memory of him and the many other friends who were killed there.
"Days and years pass, and those who live will see," she sang in front of a group gathered on the slope in front of the Utoya stage.
Roald Linaker, an army priest, lost his son Gunnar, 23, at Utoya, while his daughter Hanne survived.
"The valleys have been very deep," Mr. Linaker told public broadcaster NRK after the service in the Oslo Cathedral. "I have been lucky enough to work as a priest for many years and I've supported many grieving people, (but) I never understood how much it hurts."