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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW student shares experience during Norway attack

“I never thought it would happen in Norway,” said University of Wisconsin senior Max Fries.

This summer, eight people were killed in a bombing near the government headquarters in Oslo. Anders Behring Breivik has been arrested in connection with the attack – which has since been deemed a massacre – and has confessed to the bombing as well as the shooting spree that killed 69 people.

To many Americans, the attack, while frightening, was a distant event. But Fries was studying contemporary Norwegian society in the city during the time of the bombing.


Fries sat down with The Badger Herald to share his proximity to the attack and his experiences briefly living in a country trying to heal. The following is an edited interview.

The Badger Herald: I understand you were very close when the attack happened.

Max Fries: I heard something. I didn’t know what it was. I was in the National Gallery in Oslo, and that’s just off the main street. I felt something that sounded like thunder.

We left, went back outside, didn’t think anything of it. No one looked panicked. We went to the Metro station and took the Metro back to our dorm.

[I checked my computer and] I see “Blast goes off in Oslo,” and I thought: I’m in Oslo.

It was all very shocking because you never think something like that is going to happen to you until you’re in the middle of the action.

It actually happened in [the Government Quarter]. People all the way back to our dormitory could hear it, which is a little over a 10-minute Metro ride from where it happened. It could be heard from far away.

The director of the summer school we were at called us into a meeting to explain the events and what went on. It was a very surreal feeling.

BH: Nothing was closed down?

Fries: The Government Quarter was closed down, and what I also heard was there were army officers all over the place, which almost seems completely unbelievable. We were going to Norway, and I had a travel partner who also goes to UW. It was funny because he said one girl said to him, “OK, be safe in Oslo! What am I talking about? You’re going to Oslo.”

You had this sense of security, which was then put in jeopardy.

BH: Do you think there was a difference between how Norway responded to the attack versus how Americans have responded to attacks?

Fries: Yes, I do. If there’s anything that I really want to [convey], it is this: What was really disappointing was how the American media handled it. How everyone in the states, and by everyone I mean the American media – conservative, liberal, doesn’t matter – how they thought it was a Muslim extremist attack at first.

Norway is a very transparent country. We were told at least by our instructor that you could email a [politician] and get a response. Granted, it’s 4 million people, but that transparency is very present in their media and in their speech. It’s like the [Norwegian Prime Minister] Jens Stoltenberg said: We’re going to fight this kind of attack with more democracy.

BH: Was there an element of revenge in many Norwegians’ responses after the attack?

Fries: With every Norwegian I talked to, it was never about revenge. It was, ‘What can we do to make sure this kind of hate never happens again. How do we eliminate this sort of hate?’

This is the greatest attack on their country since World War Two, so it was a shock. There was all this time for self-reflection. [Norwegians thought:] We thought we were a very safe, well-grounded society. How do we deal with this in the future and how do we meet this sort of security issue?

BH: Did the attack come up in any of your classes?

Fries: Definitely. It happened on a Friday afternoon, so I had the weekend, and the first thing we talked about in my classes was the attack. One of our instructors had us write a reflection and he posted them anonymously on the internet. We did have some Norwegians [in our class]. They talked about their own sorrow, their own hopes.

I talked about my proximity to it and how I never thought my security would be compromised in a place like Norway […] I never thought it would happen in Norway.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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