The longest night

For some, it won’t start until after the last of the funerals are over.

For others, it will start when they close their eyes and try to sleep.

Tonight, many of the survivors will have returned to their homes, spread all over Norway and separated from many of their comrades.

No longer will they be in the company of those with whom they shared the nightmare.

They have come back to a world that does not – and cannot – understand.

They will feel the joy and relief of having made it back to their families alive, of seeing loved ones that, for a couple of hours on Friday afternoon, they thought they would never see again.

But when the lights go out, many of them will see the faces of those who didn’t make it.

The desperate faces of their friends who fell all around them as they tried to escape the madman’s bullets.

The anguish and the fear and the helplessness they felt on the island will return with full force.

Why did they survive, when so many others fell?

Why did he not single them out for execution?

Is it even worth going on when so many they knew and loved are now gone forever?

For some, there will be shame.

Did I push someone out of the way as I scrambled for survival?

Did I slow someone down?

Is there an empty bed in an empty room in some other family’s house tonight because of what I did to survive?

Others will lie in hospital beds, recovering from their wounds and thinking of how close they came to losing the most precious thing they have.

They will remember lying still with the dead all around them, desperately trying not to breathe as he walked among them.

Flinching as the phone rang in their pocket, longing to answer it but knowing that if they were to pick it up, it could be the last thing they ever did.

For many, this will be the first night of many where such thoughts steal their way in through the darkness.

Some will soon get over it. Many will carry it forever.

For this is what terrorism does.

And this is why it cannot be allowed to win.