Danish students about terror attack in Denmark: “We were not surprised”

Maria Bruun-Schmidt

It was Valentine’s Day when a terror attack struck Denmark at 3:33 p.m. It turned out to be one of the worst acts of terrorism in decades to hit the small country, with 5.6 million citizens who regularly rank in opinion surveys as among the world’s happiest people.

Two people were killed when a 22-year-old gunman shot a Danish film director at Oesterbro and, later in the night, murdered a Jewish guard at a synagogue located in the heart of Copenhagen.

In the hours and days after the attacks, more and more evidence and information has emerged and the Danish media has covered the attacks thoroughly.

Here are some immediate thoughts from Danish students who were situated in Copenhagen while the attacks were going on:

Elisabeth Eskildsen, 24, Politiken:

“I was situated in Copenhagen when the first shootings took place at Oesterbro at 3:55 p.m. I was far from danger, but I saw my Copenhagen drown in sirens in the blink of an eye.

“I went with my friend directly to the inner city, to Hans Christian Andersens Boulevard and past Denmark’s biggest newspaper, Politiken, there were many policemen, many civilian cars — or whatever you call it — and large black vans, which I think is PET, [The Intelligence Service of the Police].

“When we came out of the heart of the city it did not appear that the shootings had affected the Copenhagish Saturday-mood. Young people were carrying beer and wine in cartons. I kept repeating that it was inconceivable that it happened… My friend and I were both affected by the terror attack, but in different ways.

“I was very silent and I would just sit with a lump in my throat while my friend phoned his family and cried for a bit.

“I think in fact that I felt the shootings were so far away from me that I felt it would not affect me in any way. Since we were going to sleep, I got an urgent [text] about the second shooting in Copenhagen – this time at a synagogue in the inner city – and my friend and I turned the television on to watch TV2 News. They had crazy professional coverage, I think, and I actually came to looking at the situation from my profession as a journalist.

“I would analyze the coverage of the media, so to speak, and I could feel that it disassociated myself a little from the events. I followed the events on television for several hours, would stay awake until the police press conference at 4 o’clock in the morning, but ended up falling asleep when it started.

“I also wrote a little with my ex-boyfriend Nicolai, who passed the inner city when shots were fired. He shared a video on Facebook, and I wanted to make sure he was okay. We wrote together while he sat in a rail-replacement-bus-service on the way home – because the trains were not running. I just think that everyone felt they would comfort each other and look after each other – especially after the importance of the whole thing were underlined when the second shooting took place at the Jewish synagogue.

“It affected me a lot, all of it happened so uncertain. The Prime Minister spoke about ‘dark forces that would hurt us,’ and the police searched parks in Copenhagen to find this monster that everyone was talking about.

“Meanwhile, my colleagues went around the streets – the photographers were out all night to shoot pictures, and I was proud of them and our newspaper. My friend said she thought I was very succinct, but I wouldn’t agree. I was relieved that I was not on duty that night, but I still could not help imagining how busy it would be in the editorial.

“When I woke up Sunday morning, my friend turned on the TV. The alleged offender had been shot a mile from where I am living. I immediately felt I had lied to her the evening before when I kept repeating that we were far from the danger.

“It took a long time before the public got the name of the alleged offender, but when the media published a picture of a maladjusted and mentally unstable 22-year-old, I was relieved. The dark forces were as summarized in one dark mind, and it made the situation clear to me. He is neither part of a terrorist cell or been trained to fight in Syria. He was a lone wolf, and although there are some people who sympathize with his actions, I think and I hope that the unity conquers the suspicious publication.

“The next day I followed my friend to the bus while a helicopter hovered over our heads. The second after I held back for a whole caravan of police cars – both patrol cars and PET – who turned up on a minor road in the inner city.

“In the front car window was rolled down and a fight dressed man stuck his head forward – he was dressed all in black, I could sense a bulletproof vest, and his face was completely hidden by black fabric, sunglasses and maybe even a helmet. The cyclist in front of me was still exactly, but I went to a halt and put your feet into the ground to show the police that I held back. He waved to me. Maybe he just waved his hand to signal that I should hold back, but part of me would like to think that he actually waved.

“In the first few days of the shootings – at work – we talked a lot about security. Now we are not talking about it anymore. I think most of my colleges are comfortable to go to work – however I feel that there are journalists who feel discouraged in terms of how they can express themselves in the future.”

Tinne2

Tinne Hjersing, 24, Berlingske:

“I was thousands of kilometers away when I saw my journalist colleagues, who are also my friends, work under a huge pressure to cover the terrorist attack in Copenhagen. At that time everything was chaotic. I wanted to help, and I felt completely powerless because I was so far from Copenhagen. So a hash tag was my way to contribute. #Copenhagenshooting. It was actually the first thing that occurred to me that I had the opportunity to do: to translate Danish tweets into English and the immediate thoughts about the terrorist attack.

“I realized that I hardly think about it now, a couple of days after the attack. I was not surprised it happened, although I am shocked. In the last decade Danish journalist and cartoonish have been threatened by terrorists. What happened is horrible but now that it’s happened, it occurred to me how much damage the constant threat in the last 10 years has made to the Danish society. It strikes me how it has affected me.

“I think about what are potential terrorist targets, and often when I am in a public place amongst many people – for example Norreport during peak hours – I think that I am the centre of a potential terrorist target.”

Kit Lindhart

Kit Lindhart, 25, Ritzau:

“What happened in the weekend is horrible, unforgivable, and cynical. But I have to say, that it wasn’t shocking. I guess we all somewhere inside was expecting that something like this could happen, especially after the Paris-attacks.

“It has been amazing to see and feel the support from the rest of the world the days after. This is not just two Danes dead – this is an attack on freedom and democracy everywhere in the western world. It is very obvious that something like that can’t pass without comments from our neighbouring countries and even USA, who might fear, they are next.

“The press has been covering the events extremely thoroughly in Denmark. Every media wants to be first with new information – any information, even the smallest news – about the investigation, the gunman, the accomplices, the victims and the weapons. And I am sure that the rush and the speed of the news stream have led to some misunderstandings. I think that the media over all has done a good job checking facts, even though there have been some mess-ups.

“I am sure the role of the Danish press in this will be analysed very thoroughly soon and many times again and again in the future. Right now, when we are still right in the middle of it, it is difficult to see exactly what we could or should have done differently during the past four days.”

Simon Reenberg

Simon Reenberg, 25, Politiken:

“I received an urgent SMS about the terror attack at 3:40 p.m. It said a man had shot at an event which had freedom of expression on the agenda. I was glued to the television screen for the next 12 hours. I live close to the area of Copenhagen where the shooting took place.

“But anyway, I’m not so affected by it. The media, the politicians, and the social media have covered the terror attack so thoroughly that the event itself has almost drowned in all the attention. I visited however the synagogue where one of the shootings took place on Sunday morning and I attended the memorial ceremony at Copenhagen City Heart on Monday. I was touched by these arrangements but after thinking about it I am sure that I was so affected because I was surrounded by a large amount of people. All in all it is great to see that most Danes stand together not to do this for a religious war and I keep my fingers crossed that the politicians are not trying to exploit the episode to attack Muslims in the coming elections.”

1795476_10202836684291124_1235002730_n

Emilie Kleding, 23, Politiken:

“The thing that hit me the most while covering the terrorist attack in Copenhagen was how different my city and home was. Suddenly it lacked the life that usually fills up our capital on a saturday night – but this weekend it was empty (a few hours after the second shooting took place downtown). The train station was filled with police, the main streets was silent and the bars closed down. And there – in the movie like setting, walking around the most busy street in Copenhagen all alone in the night – it hit me. This is how it is living with war and daily attacks. Seeing your home change and feeling actually afraid (because the shooter was still not found). Where everything I associated with a saturday night, was gone. Then I started being afraid of what terror can do to a country and the life you knew.”

 

The 22-year-old Danish-born attacker was killed in a burst of return fire the day after the terror attacks on Sunday, February 15th, the Danish police confirm. He left a pool of blood and an open wound in the Danish society.

 

#Copenhagenshooting