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A Firsthand Account of the Massacre in Utøya

A Firsthand Account of the Massacre in Utøya

 

Written by Solana Larsen, a blogger for Global Voices

The world is still in shock over the mass-murder of at least 85 people attending a political youth camp on the island Utøya in Norway on the evening of Friday, 22 July 2011. The killer, now identified as Anders Behring Breivik, masqueraded as a police officer before opening fire on everyone around him, and chasing those who fled to the water. Breivik is also the prime suspect behind a bombing in Oslo only a few hours earlier that killed seven people and caused extensive damage to government buildings.

The Utøya summer camp is an annual event of AUF (Arbejdernes Ungdomsfylking) the youth organization of the Norwegian Labour Party. Young people from across the country gather to discuss politics, listen to music, play sports and hear speeches by current and former politicians. Utøya is less than an hour’s drive from central Oslo. Earlier in the day, before the gunman arrived, AUF’s Twitter feed [no] and the #Utøya hashtag showed that approximately 700 participants were discussing the environment, women’s rights, and Middle East politics. It was raining, but the mood was good. Later, the Twitter account went silent.

A story of survival

On Saturday, Prableen Kaur, a 23-year old local politician and youth leader from Oslo, posted a firsthand account of what happened to her on her blog in Norwegian. She fled the killer and managed to survive, using her mobile phone, Twitter, and Facebook to tell family and friends she was still alive. The Telegraph newspaper in the UK has translated the entire blog post to English on Saturday. Several hundred people have left comments on Kaur’s blog offering support and best wishes.

Here are excerpts from her traumatic story:

I woke up. I cannot sleep anymore. I am sitting in the living room. Feeling grief, anger, happiness, God, I do not know what. There are too many emotions. Too many thoughts. I am afraid. I react to the slightest sound. I want to write about what happened on Utøya. What my eyes saw, what I felt, what I did.

We had a crisis meeting in the main building after the explosions in Oslo. After that there was a meeting for the members from Akershus and Oslo. After the meetings there were many, many people around and inside the main building. We consoled ourselves that we were safe on an island. Nobody could know that hell would break loose where we were too.

Kaur describes the confusion and horror as people around her heard the gun shots and ran to a back room, seeking cover on the floor. People began to jump out the window as the shooting continued, and she describes fearing she would die as the last person to jump. She recovered from a hard landing and ran further into the woods. She phoned her mother, crying, saying she didn’t know if she would survive.

At this moment, she tweeted:

@PrableenKaur: I’m still alive.

Her story continues:

People jumped into the water and started swimming. I was lying down. I decided that if he came, I would play dead. I would not run or swim. I cannot describe the fear that took over my mind, what I felt.

A man came. “I’m from the police.” I was lying there. Some shouted back that he had to prove it. I do not remember exactly what he said, but the killer started shooting. He charged. He shot those around me. I was still lying there. I thought: “Now it’s over. He’s here. He’s going to shoot me. I’m going to die.” People screamed. I heard that others were shot. Others jumped into the water. I was there. Holding the mobile phone in my hand, I lay on top of a girl’s legs. Two others lay on my feet. I was still lying there. The mobile phone rang several times. I was still lying. I played dead. I lay there for at least an hour. It was completely quiet. I gently turned her head to see if I could see someone alive. I looked like around. I saw blood. Fear. I decided to get up. I had been lying on top of a dead body. Two dead bodies lay on me. I had a guardian angel.

Kaur did not know if the killer would return, and decided to swim after the others. She was rescued by a boat and met by her father and brother on the shore.

On her way to the summer camp on July 21, Kaur had tweeted:

@PrableenKaur: On my way to Utøya – summer’s most beautiful adventure.

Her final paragraph in the blog post describing the terrifying day says:

Some hours have passed since all this happened. I am still in shock. Everything still hasn’t sunk in. I have seen the corpses of my friends. Several of my friends are missing. I am happy I can swim. I am happy I am alive. That God has taken care of me. There are so many feelings, so many thoughts. I think of all the relatives. Of all those I have lost. On the hell that is and was on the island. Summer’s most beautiful adventure transformed to Norway’s worst nightmare.

This post was originally published by Global Voices.
Related Stories:

Norway Sounds Alarm Bell in Europe

Is Breivik Insane? Mental Illness and Extreme Right-Wing Ideology

Pat Buchanan Supports Norway Gunman’s Islamophobic Message

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Photo from NRK P3 via flickr

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14 comments

+ add your own
7:27PM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

Absolutely horrid!

10:23AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

Thanks for the info.

2:20AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

so sad...

10:14PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

I have been deeply touched by the Noewegian response to this dreadful tragedy. To see Muslims and Christian participants at the funeral of one of the victims, and the dignity of the Norwegian leader and his people are inspiring.

6:40PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

3:47PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

How tragic and sad for her and her friends to have endured such rage from this insane terrorist. Our sincere condolences go out to all of them and the beautiful country of Norway. A ban on shipments of all firearms and ammunition must become law and strickly enforced.

3:03PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

This killer reminds me of the Nazi Youth during WWII.................arrogant bastards!!! I wish that they would put him away for life, in with the Norway prisons general criminals.....I'm sure they would find a way to 'entertain' him and make him suffer terribly.......I hope he feels fear for the rest of his life as 'fear' is a terrible emotion.

2:08PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

Smart of her to play dead, I'm sure that saved her life. Now the healing begins.

7:59AM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

That beautiful island will always be haunted by what one hate-filled individual did there.

Yesterday, the first funeral of a Breivik victim. She was Bano Rashid, 18 - a 1996 refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan, who survived Saddam Hussein and the US (the first Gulf War) only to be murdered by a Norwegian fascist.

Some photos - the flag on Bano's coffin is of the as-yet non-existent country of Kurdistan: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/189403/20110729/norway-victims-funeral-photos-anders-behring-breivik.htm

7:29AM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

You are a survivor. And a witness, and your life has changed. Keep strong in your faith and love.

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