• Sweden's news in English

Firefighter to Stockholm rioters: I'll still help you

23 May 2013, 16:51

Published: 23 May 2013 16:51 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Swedes have been captivated, if not a bit shocked, by the riots that first broke out in the northwest Stockholm district of Husby on Sunday night.

Major media outlets in Sweden have had near non-stop reporting on the disturbances, which have also caught the attention of the foreign press.

But few reports or reflections have arguably garnered a response on par with the one provided by firefighter Mattias Lassén, a 34-year-old firefighter with the Attunda fire brigade in Jakobsberg, a suburb just across Stockholm city lines from Husby, and which was also the scene of violence on Tuesday night.

"We were totally unprepared. We had no indication that we were under any sort of threat," Lassén tells The Local.

Lassén and his colleagues were responding to a call about a car fire in the car park at Jakobsberg's town centre when they suddenly found themselves facing "25 to 30" young people who began hurling the rocks at the them.

Fearing for their safety, Lassén and his fellow firefighters had no choice but to leave the area and let the fire burn.

IN PICTURES: Stockholm riots, day three

"I'd never experienced anything like it. We did everything we could to get out of there," the 13-year veteran firefighter adds.

"We can only thank our lucky stars we escaped without any physical injuries."

The incident left Lassén shaken, and on Wednesday night he took to his Facebook account and posted an open letter to "those who threw rocks at us" in which he described how he and his colleagues had been affected by having 20 rocks thrown at them.

"Luckily, I had my helmet on my head so the rock only left a big mark on my helmet. Luckily, you didn't hit our driver who was able to drive us out of there and could drop his son off at daycare this morning," Lassén wrote.

"You have had a permanent impact on my and my friend's professional lives."

Within 12 hours of being posted, the letter, which included a picture of a fire truck with a smashed window, had been shared more than 50,000 times on Facebook.

Lassén's letter went on to promise that, despite the harrowing encounter with the rock, he and his colleagues wouldn't hesitate to carry out their duties in the future.

IN PICTURES: See the damage from the Husby fires

"I'm here if your dad needs help if he crashes his car; I'll help your sister if a fire starts in her kitchen. I'll swim through icy waters to help your little brother if he falls from a boat," he wrote.

"I'll help your grandmother if she has a heart attack and I'll even help YOU if you fall through the ice on a sunny day in March.

"Why did you do this to me? I also have a family that wants to see me again, just like you!"

As it turned out, however, the humble firefighter was more or less unaware of all the attention his post had generated until he emerged from a meeting around midday to himself inundated with calls from journalists wanting to hear more from a man who had managed to move tens of thousands of Swedes with two heartfelt paragraphs.

"All the attention makes me a little nervous. I really hadn't expected there to be such a huge response," he explains, adding that he has since changed the settings on his Facebook profile in hopes of preserving a shred of privacy.

He said he was motivated to write the open letter in hopes of getting the rioters and others to realize that there are real people underneath the helmets he and his colleagues wear.

"I figured the best way to reach these people was to make it personal. My theory is that people don't throw rocks at people they know," he says.

"We're not just a faceless mass of firefighters or police officers. We're the coach of your sister's football team, or friends with your neighbour."

Story continues below…

SEE ALSO:A list of The Local's past Swedes of the Week

When asked about his thoughts on the ongoing riots, Lassén opts not to get involved.

"Those are societal problems the [Prime Minister] can address," he replies, also rejecting any notion that his Facebook post makes him into some sort of hero.

"I'm no hero. I'm just a guy who wants to do his job in peace and quiet."

Editor's Note: The Local's Swede of the week is someone in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

David Landes

Follow David Landes on Twitter

Related links:

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish football diehard who went viral doesn't get the fuss
Possibly the most dedicated fan in the world. Photo: Patric Söderström/TT

A picture of Gefle IF celebrating with the only fan to make a 1164km round trip to see them has gone viral. The Local spoke to the diehard in question.

Julian Assange
Sweden won't suspend Assange warrant for funeral
Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. Photo: Alastair Grant/AP

The WikiLeaks founder has requested a temporary suspension of an arrest warrant so he could leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London for a funeral.

'I want to see women priests in the Catholic Church'
Archbishop Antje Jackelén meeting Pope Francis earlier in 2016. Photo: L'Osservatore Romano/AP

'I told the pope last year during a speech it is time to no longer speak for women about women, but to speak with women,' Sweden's Archbishop says.

Sweden one of world's easiest places to do business: report
A meeting at a Stockholm office. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

It is easier to do business in Sweden now than it was last year, according to a World Bank report.

This Swede has built a procrastinator's dream
Anders Åberg has built a website that allows you to hear what’s going on above the Earth. Photo: Personal & NASA

Ever wondered what's going on in the sky above the earth and in space? Now you can hear for yourself.

Presented by Malmö Tourism
Seven reasons why Malmö is the football capital of Sweden
Players from FC Rosengård, Sweden's most successful women's football team. Photo: Hangsna

It’s official, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

Fake police car driver seized after confronting real police
File photo of a police car. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Three men in a fake police car were left red-faced after they tried to stop a man in southern Sweden who turned out to be an off-duty officer.

This tiny bird can fly for ten months straight: scientists
The common swift while not in flight. Photo: Madis Veskimeister/Wikimedia

Swedish scientists have found that this bird stays in the air for almost a year without landing.

Why the Pope is visiting Sweden next week
Pope Francis in the Vatican. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Pope to nail reconciliation agenda to Lutherans' door in southern Sweden.

The Local Recipes
How to make no-knead sourdough bread like a Swede
No-knead sourdough bread. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Swedes love their sourdough bread. Food writer John Duxbury shares his favourite Swedish recipe for a no-knead loaf.

Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
People-watching: October 26th
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available