Even though this is a book blog, I did feel the need to write a bit about what happened yesterday in Stockholm. If you’re not interested in reading about that then feel free to ignore this post. I’ve placed it behind a cut just in case.
So by this time I’m guessing the news are out all over the world and a lot of you have found out that a terrible thing happened yesterday in Sweden’s capital city – Stockholm. A truck delivering drinks to a restaurant was hijacked by an unknown man and was then driven down a road called Drottninggatan (Queen’s Road), which is a major walking road (no cars are allowed on it) in Stockholm that leads all the way down to the parliament and then across a bridge to the castle. It’s one of those roads that you’ve doubtlessly walked on if you’ve been to Stockholm due to that it passes several tourist-y places other than those mentioned above and has a lot of shops and restaurants (tourist-y and otherwise). The hijacked truck was driven down this road at high speed, hitting several people and then drove straight into the entrance of a big department store by Sergels Torg (Sergel’s Square).
At this time I was at home with my family.
For your information, I live in a city about 1 hour’s drive west of Stockholm. The city I grew up in – and where my family lives – is 1 hour’s drive south of Stockholm. Yesterday I went to my family’s home as my parents were heading to Stockholm for the annual garden fair (my mum’s favorite place). They were going to stay at a hotel and then visit the fair on Saturday (today) – and because I doubted my youngest sister would be able to wake up in time to take the dog out on her own I decided to head home and help. Once at home I got involved in helping said youngest sister with her High School exam paper – she’s studied teachers’ knowledge of how to assist children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses such as dyslexia, ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism – and when my mum got home from work she helped out as well. By the time mum and I stepped away from my sister’s work and returned to our own stuff, it was past 3pm and the attack in Stockholm had happened.
At first we were just staring at the news in shock, both of us standing at the dining table with our tablets, especially since it was still very unclear what was going on. A couple of minutes later my father arrived at home and told us he heard about the attack on the radio on the way home from work, then got a call from his mother (my grandmother) asking if we were all alright.
At this point it suddenly felt very, very real to me. I suddenly realized that my father’s Stockholm office is only two blocks away from where the attack happened (right by Stockholm Central Train Station) and that it was just lucky he had been at the local office in our home town instead. I also realized that my other sister studies at the University of Stockholm and goes by train and tube to her classes every day, but that she was not there at the moment because she was working – in our home town. And I also realized that, even though the garden fair is located in the southern suburbs of Stockholm, I desperately did not want my parents to leave that night.
My father did not seem to keen on that prospect either, which was why him and my mum decided to wait and see what happened. We turned on the TV in the living room and stayed there watching the reports for several hours. At this point our dog started to realize that something was wrong – we never watch TV in the middle of the day, according to him, so he took to following us all around and got anxious when we did not stay in the same place. We then started getting reports of people being trapped in Stockholm due to the cancellation of trains, buses and the tube – and that was when my parents decided to stay home for the night. When they called the hotel about it the clerk was very grateful, as they had tried to get to people who had not yet checked in in order to see if they would be willing to give their rooms to some of the people trapped in the city – which my parents obviously were.
Then we stayed in the whole evening and watched The Parent Trap together while eating hamburgers.
So far I’ve not heard of anyone of my friends or extended family who have been harmed by this attack, but you still can’t help but think about it. An act like this feels, in a way, violating. It’s a violation against our society, our way of thinking – and the worst thing you can do is find a scapegoat and violate them back (yes, I’m glaring a bit at the US here, apologies to all Americans following this blog).
Yesterday there was a tag trending on Twitter. #openStockholm
You know what that was about?
It was about showing solidarity. Helping. Anyone. In. Need. Of. Help.
People outside the evacuated zone opened up their homes to allow people trapped in the city somewhere to stay. Stores outside of the danger zone offered safe spaces, food and drink. Some went and bought a ton of fruit and sandwiches from bars and headed to the outskirts of the evacuated zone to hand these out to the police and military working non-stop there. I read a Facebook-post from a Swedish writer who had given his credit card to a book store and told people to spread the word that he would pay for whatever children’s book parents picked up for their children that night, as a way of comforting them and helping them cope with what just had happened. And from towns all around Stockholm, from where these people might have traveled, there were reports of teachers staying in school with the kids until they knew that their parents were back home or someone else the parents trusted was able to pick them up. Grocery stores offered to accept payment through Swish from parents so that kids could come and pick up bags of food. People offered to drive from these towns to the outskirts of the evacuated zone to pick people up for nothing but some gas money.
I have seen very little in terms of blaming this on someone or something, that being a religious or ethnic group. Which is amazing, because somehow that seems to be the thing to do in these cases and I’d hate for that to be the case in Sweden. Yes, I’ve seen some posts when scrolling through Twitter, but not as many as I might have seen had this attack happened elsewhere. I am currently keeping my fingers crossed that this won’t happen later either because that only causes further segregation, war and I’d rather not see a repeat of Nazi Germany, thank you very much.
Violence cannot stop violence. Hope, support and love can. And that’s what the Swedish people have been showing since the initial shock dwindled down to nothing. I have never, ever been more proud to call myself Swedish than I am today and I hope that this, as well as how the Londoners reacted after the recent London attack, will show everyone that terror attacks will not segregate us, will not make us afraid, will not make us cower – we will stay strong, together.