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Norway: A Firsthand Account of the Massacre in Utøya

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 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.

Prableen Kaur

Prableen Kaur

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:

Jeg har våknet. Jeg klarer ikke å sove mer. Jeg sitter i stuen. Føler sorg, sinne, lykke, Gud jeg vet ikke hva. Det er for mange følelser. Det er for mange tanker. Jeg er redd. Jeg reagerer på hver minste lyd. Jeg vil nå skrive om hva som skjedde på Utøya. Hva mine øyne så, hva jeg følte, hva jeg gjorde.

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.

Vi hadde hatt krisemøte i hovedbygget etter eksplosjonene i Oslo. Etter det var det et eget møte for medlemmene fra Akershus og Oslo. Etter møtene befant mange, mange seg rundt og i hovedbygget. Vi trøstet oss med at vi var trygge på en øy. Ingen hadde visst at helvete ville bryte ut hos oss også.

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: Jeg lever foreløpig.

@PrableenKaur: I'm still alive.

Her story continues:

Folk hoppet ut i vannet, begynte å svømme. Jeg ble liggende. Jeg bestemte meg for at hvis han kom, skulle jeg spille død. Jeg skulle ikke løpe eller svømme. Jeg kan ikke beskrive frykten, alle tankene, det jeg følte.

En man kom. ”Jeg er fra politiet.” Jeg ble liggende. Noen skrek tilbake at han måtte bevise det. Jeg husker ikke helt hva ham sa, men morderen begynte å skyte. Han ladet. Skjøt mer. Han skjøt de rundt meg. Jeg ble liggende. Jeg tenke: ”Nå er det over. Han er her. Han tar meg. Nå dør jeg.” Folk skrek. Jeg hørte at andre ble skutt. Andre hoppet ut i vannet. Jeg lå der. Mobilen i hånden. Jeg lå oppå beina til en jente. To andre lå oppå mine bein. Jeg ble liggende. Det tikket inn tekstmeldinger. Mobilen ringte flere ganger. Jeg ble liggende. Jeg spilte død. Jeg lå der i minst en time. Det var helt stille. Jeg vred forsiktig på hodet for å se om jeg kunne se noen levende. Jeg så lik. Jeg så blod. Frykt. Jeg bestemte meg for å reise meg. Jeg hadde ligget oppå et lik. To lik lå på meg. Jeg hadde englevakt.

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: Er på vei til Utøya – sommerens vakreste eventyr.

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

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

Det har gått noen timer siden alt dette skjedde. Jeg er fortsatt i sjokk. Alt har ikke sunket inn. Jeg har sett lik av mine venner. Flere av vennene mine er savnet. Jeg er glad for at jeg kan svømme. Jeg er glad for at jeg lever. For at Gud passet på meg. Det er så mange følelser, så mange tanker. Jeg tenker på alle de pårørende. På alle jeg har mistet. På det helvete som er og var på øya. Sommerens vakreste eventyr er forvandlet til Norges verste mareritt.

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.

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