The Morning After

För Stockholms-barn behöfs ej måla
På Norr den mångbesökta punkt,
Där skenor ut som nerver stråla,
Och järnvägsvagnar dåna tungt.
– Carl Snoilsky, “På gammal tomt”*

I was in the lunchroom at work when I got the news. We were having afternoon fika, and one of my colleagues got a ping on her phone and said that a truck had driven into Åhléns City. At first I didn’t really understand, thought it wasn’t anything serious. Making the connection between this event and the events in Berlin, Nice, and London was slow. Because I never thought anything like this would ever happen in Sweden. I always thought that these attacks happened as a result of the country’s part in the wars in the Middle East. Sweden doesn’t take part in any wars. Sweden is insignificant. I took solace in that – I thought that’s what it takes to keep a country safe. I was wrong.

Everybody at work were looking down into their phones, making phone calls. My brother called me first. He works in a building not far from where it happened. Nobody could continue working, rather everybody was trying to find a way home.

I’m going to be honest. You know this from my previous posts. Whenever such attacks have occurred in nearby countries, I’ve always been afraid for my own safety. I’ve been scared on the subways and buses on my way to and home from work.

This time it was different. For the first time in life, there was a different fear, a different sadness, a different anger. At first I had to call and text around to people to make sure everybody I knew was safe. Secondly, I thought of the location. Åhléns City is a mall situated in the centermost part of the city. People pass that mall not only because they’re out shopping, but because just below that mall is the central tube station, the station where all the subway and train lines pass. I could have been there. Anybody I know could have been there.

I thought of the location. Stockholm. My home. Where I was born, where I’ve lived pretty much my entire life. Some of the streets of which I could move around blindfolded. This is my city.

And then came the questions: am I allowed to call it my city? Is it OK? Will anybody object? Will anybody tell me I don’t have a right to partake in the grief? I wished I could make myself small, invisible. 

It’s easy to lose focus of the victims when something far away from you happens. Not so easy when it happens in front of you, or somewhere close to you, somewhere real to you. People actually died, and got seriously hurt. Here. Right in the heart of my city.

*For children of Stockholm you don’t have to portray
The frequently visited spot at north
Where rails beam like nerves outward
And railway wagons thunder heavily
– Carl Snoilsky, “On Old Plot” (my translation)

Featured image from Google.

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