Thursday, March 20, 2014


The serenity of northern Sweden
In July, 2011 I was in northern Sweden at Hans's family's summer cottage on the Baltic Sea. Freja was a new baby, we were new parents. We were happy and tired. Perhaps that explains the numb feeling I had when I heard about the horrendous mass shooting on Utoya island in Norway where 69 people were killed, mostly teenagers, and 8 more at a separate, but related, incident in Oslo. It was a shocking, appalling tragedy. Since we were in Sweden, the news coverage was intense. But I remember thinking "I should be feeling more. Why is this not upsetting me?" I don't know why. I'll blame it on lack of sleep, and maybe feeling a little removed from it since all the news coverage was in Swedish. Or maybe it was just so horrific that I couldn't grasp the depth of the tragedy.

This morning, however, I was moved when I heard a report on the radio about a proposed memorial. The artist, Jonas Dahlberg, calls his vision a "memory wound." He wants visitors to feel the loss; to have a physical feeling of loss. He said: 

"It's still almost impossible to understand [the shooting]. It's also one of the reasons why it's so important with memorials for these kinds of things. It's to maybe help a little bit to understand what was happening. So it's not just about remembering, it's also about trying to just understand — or helping to understand."

This seems so important to me. We hear of new tragedies almost every day--mass shootings and natural disasters and war--but it's really hard to understand the loss, to feel the loss. I worry that mass shootings have become so common in the U.S. that people just add each new one to a running tally. I was in college when the shooting occurred at Columbine High School. It really disturbed me and the headlines went on for days and weeks. Is that the case now? It seems like mass shootings are becoming commonplace and Americans are just resigned to that new part of our culture. Otherwise, surely we would be doing something to prevent this happening in the future. As far as I can tell, nothing has been done in terms of gun control reform or funding for mental health programs.

Jonas Dahlberg's vision for a "memory wound," what I'd also call a living memorial, is spot on.

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