Kitty Juul is proud of her Norwegian roots, and the attacks there on Friday just bolsters that feeling.
Juul, who grew up in Illinois but now lives in Johnson City, said she was shocked at the bombing and shooting spree in a country she sees as a “utopia.”
Juul’s Norwegian background comes from her father. He fled his native Norway during World War II when the Nazis invaded the country. And while he relinquished his Norwegian citizenship, Juul said she feels a strong connection to her father’s homeland.
She has fond memories of the summers she spent in Norway as a child, and the time she lived there after high school in the U.S. Her first thought on word of the Friday attacks was about her extended family who live in and around Oslo.
“We’ve been able to talk to (my cousins) who are seeing things first hand.
“They’re in a state of shock,” Juul said on Sunday.
“We’ve been in touch with all my cousins except one,” she said.
“I have one cousin who lives on the lake where the shootings happened and we haven’t been able to reach her yet.”
Juul is confident, however, that her cousin is safe or the family would have heard something by now. Luckily, much of Juul’s family is on holiday in Spain, she said.
Hearing about the attacks “really upset me,” Juul said. “It’s such a peaceful, beautiful environment and you can’t imagine something this horrible happening.”
Juul has been able to keep up with what’s happening in Norway through her family, the Al Jazeera news website as well as Norwegian media websites.
For her non-Norwegian speaking friends, she suggested the Al Jazeera English website as a good source for updates on the situation.
“We’re so surprised because everybody there considers it a utopia. It’s very open, very democratic. The people embrace other cultures, different religions,” Juul said. “It seems to be a more open society than we have here. There’s an acceptance of different ways of life.
“Norwegian people are very proud of having such a peaceful accepting society. I’ve been proud of that. Those are my roots.”
Juul said she believes the attack will change the way Norway prepares for what could happen in the future — just like 9/11 changed the way Americans prepare to protect themselves.
“I’ve seen comments online criticizing Norway for the slow response, and it was terribly slow. I can’t imagine what those kids went through for 1 1/2 hours,” Juul said.
“In the U.S., because of our experience with terrorism, we’ve become more prepared as individuals, as communities, and as a nation. Since World War II, Norwegians have never experienced anything like this. This will change their preparedness activities.”
Juul said when she moved to Norway just after high school with the thought of spending her life there, she noticed there was no gun violence that is so prevalent in the U.S.
And even as her career led her back to the states, Juul and her sister considered moving to Norway after 9/11.
“We’ve always seen this, really as a utopia, a place we could go where we could be safe.”
News of the gunman’s arrest brought some relief, but hearing that he wants to make a public statement at a court hearing today concerns Juul.
“Everyone in Norway is waiting for Monday when they can hear the guy speak about why he committed such atrocities. I understand that people want closure, they want to understand why a human being could do such things,” she said.
“But he did what he did so he could have his time in the spotlight to preach his views. I think part of his punishment should be that he is not given the opportunity to tell the world why he did what he did. “