At 2.30pm yesterday, a masked man stole a delivery truck from outside of a restaurant. The delivery man tried to stop the thief by standing in front of his truck. However, the thief pushed over the driver, picked up speed and proceeded to drive zig zag down Stockholm’s main pedestrian shopping street, ploughing into people as he went. The truck’s final destination was one of Sweden’s largest department stores, into which it smashed in a billowing cloud of smoke.
Like everybody else I was really shaken up by this act of violence. I, and my nearest and dearest, were all in safety and my phone rang and beeped frenetically as we contacted and reassured each other.
Stories reached me about friends being locked into their offices or hiding out in shops and restaurants. The streets were awash with armed police, and the whole city was shut down within 20 minutes – trains, buses and the underground were all stopped and roads were cordoned off as residents and tourists were rapidly ushered out of the city center.
In the midst of the chaos, Stockholmers reached out to each other in support. People opened their homes to provide sanctuary to each other, cafes provided food and beverages, social media was flooded with people offering to help and offering protection. In this emergency, love prevailed – which was moving and heart-warming. I myself was in a gym, and the doors were locked. The staff went straight to action providing us with support and offering food and drink and unscheduled training classes for those who wanted a distraction.
The latest news at time of writing this blog is that 4 people and 1 dog were killed, and 15 seriously injured. The driver has been arrested. Another person is in custody believed to have some connection to the driver. Border control has been tightened up and there are still disturbances in local traffic.
Stockholm now joins the long line of cities such as London, Berlin, St Petersburg, Paris and Nice, who have suffered under terrorist attack.
No matter who is responsible for this act of violence, be it an organisation or an individual, we must never give into them. The nature of terrorism is to spread fear by using intentionally indiscriminate acts of violence. It’s its indiscriminate approach that makes it difficult to predict and we are often powerless to influence it. Therefore we should do what we do best – not bow down to it but stand up and keep going. It is by living our lives in our open, democratic societies that we win.
I sincerely hope that Stockholm does not become a fearful, suspicious, closed city. This place that I love is a target because of its freedom and that is a freedom we should protect by continuing to live our lives.
Terror will never win. It is designed to exploit our human fear. It is the ultimate act of intimidation. We must not let it win. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. Yesterday, we showed love to each other. Let’s continue to do that. We do not need more hate.
We must prevail.