A man stole a truck and drove it into a department store yesterday in central Stockholm, killing and wounding people. Numbers are still uncertain, and the police in all its forms has been cautious about the information they are officially releasing. It’s too soon to know many things, although people speculate regardless.
I was in Old Town, not at all far from when it happened, when it did. We were asked to stay indoors and call our families, and I could hear the helicopters flying above us. We were all scared, some shocked, trying to handle it the best we could. I want to say I kept calm but I can’t be sure. Things like this, and worse, happened at least once a week in my hometown in northern Mexico between 2006 and 2012 when the war on drugs was at its height. I got used to the helicopters and hearing the shootings. Still, nothing prepares you for when it actually happens. To me, these were things I only read about.
The bubble popped. Sweden had been boiling up for this, even the authorities have said “we can’t really be surprised that it happened”. What inspired this kind of madness is not what stuck with me the most. To the people who lost their lives, and their families, it doesn’t matter at all what the motive was behind this senseless violence. What stuck with me were the crowds out in the street, when we were allowed to leave the buildings. Public transportation was heavily restricted, and most of us were trying to walk away from the city center, either home or to a place where they could get home.
I had never seen so many people out and walking in Stockholm. It was quiet, sad but not so tense. People were crossing bridges between the islands and looking up at the sky. They weren’t looking at the helicopters, they were looking at the sunset and the birds. They were taking pictures of the city hall in the pink light.
I got offered a ride home all the way to Uppsala with my mother-in-law and one of my colleagues. We were to walk north on Kungsholmen, around and away from the closed-down city center, and along the way, my colleague stopped and looked around.
“This is a beautiful part of the city. I had not had the chance to explore it yet”. It seemed that many more were thinking the same thing, finding alternative routes to get back home.
People kept stopping to take pictures of the sunset, or just take in the last of the day’s light after having endured the dark winter. In the background, the sirens were ringing. In the foreground, life went on.