Perspective: Terror Came To Stockholm
On Friday, April 7, at 2:53 pm, terror came to Stockholm when a speeding truck plunged into the crowd on the main shopping street, killing four people and injuring nine.
Three days later, thousands of Swedes gave their response to terror, gathering in a silent vigil at Sergels torg, celebrating love, openness, and solidarity between people, symbolized during the attack by the hashtag #openstockholm.
For many Swedes, Friday the 7th was an ordinary day. People were shopping at Drottninggatan (marked by red pin on the map below), or walking past the big Åhléns department store in the city center.
At 2:53pm, everything changed. Swedes will remember this day and the time - where they were and what they were doing. Terror had come to the city – a city that only once before experienced any kind of terror attack. In 2010, a young man managed only to kill himself in a botched suicide attack, which was also close to Drottninggatan. Since 2010, police have been preparing for another attack, but until last Friday, there had not been a single incident.
Shortly before the attack, the suspect now identified as Rakhman Akilov stole a truck that had been delivering beverages in the center of Stockholm. He took the truck and drove at high rate of speed along Drottninggatan, cutting down pedestrians as he went. Three people died there in the street, while the fourth person later died in a hospital. Nine persons were injured, and hundreds fled in panic. At the end of the street the truck crashed into the Åhléns storefront. The driver got out of the truck and disappeared in the crowd.
Police were alerted immediately. A few minutes later, the subway, buses, and trains were stopped. Police took control over the central city, and people were asked to leave by walking or even running, to clear the area of civilians.
For me personally and for my countrymen, the first hour following the attack was an hour of anxiety and worry. Where were our loved ones? Were they safe? I was on the way home on the subway – the very last train to leave before the system was closed – when my son called. He told me he was there at Drottninggatan, something that I did not fully understand the implications of until later in the evening.
It dawned on me later that had he stepped out onto Drottninggatan a few moments earlier, he would have been there when the truck ran people down. My son explained he saw people lying in the street, badly injured. The police and the ambulances had just arrived.