It has now been over two months since I was at Utoya. This is my story, the way I remember it. It is not complete and no names are mentioned. One of the people mentioned anonymously in this text is unfortunately no longer with us.
July 22. 2011. It`s Friday and I am at Utoya. I had arrived the day before, two days late because of an inflammation in my big toe. I get up a bit later than the others in the camp since I was up far too late the night before. The first thing I do it catch Gro Harlem Brundtland`s speech. The next thing is Stine Renate Håheim`s speech. During this speech a person comes up and says we all have to gather in the Large hall after the speech. They have an important announcement to make. I can tell from looking at the person that something serious has happened. Right after this I get an SMS. It`s someone wondering if I`m okay. What? I ask back. I leave the speech with an unpleasant feeling. Get in to my tent, find my iPad, log on to the internet and check an online newspaper: I bomb has gone off in Oslo.
I return to the speech and ask the person who texted me to keep me posted. Already the internet connection at Utoya was getting slow and I suspected that it would collapse when everyone was told what had happened. Ask my dad to do the same thing and assure him that Utoya was probably the safest place in the world at the moment.
After the speech we all go to the Large hall. Many already know what has happened and there`s an eerie feeling in the room. A lot of us at Utoya know people who work at the Government Building. We get some information and some have questions. One of the questions was of this evenings disco would be cancelled. We didn`t get an answer to that…
The first shot
After everyone`s been informed about the bomb in Oslo I go to the Little hall with two people I know. We sat in separate chairs. We were talking about what had happened while we were trying to get online- but the connection was not working. Even though I was at Utoya it was very unpleasant to know that Norway was under attack. Who`s behind this? I remember saying to the two others that “now we`ve lost the election...”
Suddenly there`s a loud bang. It sounds like someone playing with firecrackers, or maybe someone has sent up fireworks. Then another shot. And another. People around us are getting worried. People want to see what`s going on. Somehow we suddenly realize that someone is shooting a gun. People start running towards the door that leads to the tent camp. I get up calmly and walk towards the door. In a way I understand it, but refuse to accept it. I bend down behind everyone who it trying to squeeze through the door. There may have been 10-20 people trying to get out. I grab my shoes and try to get them on. I never got that far. More shots are fired. They are coming towards the Little hall. As if being commanded everyone in the doorway turn around. Somehow I strangely managed to get up and away from the door before they all tripped over me. They would have if I hadn`t gotten to my feet.
I run into the Large hall, and suddenly find myself right in the middle of it. Shots are being fired and I am not thinking. Someone must be thinking for me and yell that I have to lie down close to the wall. I do as I`m told. I duck down, run to the wall and sit down. I think I am the person sitting closest to the door leading out to the hallway. Suddenly we here new shots, but this time we here that they’re coming from the Little hall. People jump up and run to the door. It`s survival of the fittest now. No solidarity can be traced. I get out fast and to the courtyard in front of the building.
Running for your life
Up until now I had been thinking that, to the extent that I thought at all, there`s one person who`s here to shoot one particular person. An internal reckoning of some sort. When I come out to the courtyard I see a person who has been shot. I here shots from the house behind me and I run down towards the pier. At the top of the hill I see another two people. One that I can see has been shot and one I assume had been shot. (I later learned that only one had in fact been shot) That’s when I realize that is more than an internal affair. I might actually be running for my life, so I keep running towards the pier and hoping there`s a boat there that I can get a ride with.
On my road down to the pier is a person screaming that we must not run to the boat. It`s a deathtrap. I don`t take the time to analyze what`s being said, I just trust the person and run to the football field instead. Right before I get there I meet someone I know. He says this is the worst thing he has ever experienced. I tell him things normally work out okay. He stops by the barn to find somewhere to hide. I`m unfamiliar with the barn so I continue to the football field.
During my while stay at Utoya I have been limping about because of the inflammation in my toe. I am not limping at this point. The adrenaline shuts the pain out and I run faster than I probably ever have done before. When I had crossed almost the entire football field I meet someone had just been sitting in the Little hall with. A lot of people are running in the same direction. We stop and talk about where to hide. After 4-5 seconds the pump house gets mentioned and the possibility of swimming to shore. Unfortunately, that’s where many are shot and killed just a little while later.
I tell the guy I know that “the more of us that are together, the more often we will sneeze” and I almost demand that he comes with me in the opposite direction. He does come with me and we find a place near the water and lie down. I felt pretty certain that it would soon be over. Either because the shooter would run out of bullets or because of someone wanting to play hero. None of these things happened.
Contacting the outside world
Since sitting in the Large hall I had been trying to call my dad. The problem was that I had gotten a new phone just a few days before and hadn`t gotten familiar with it. I messed about for a while, but when I had finally sat down and got more than a few seconds to dial I managed it. Dad answered and I told him someone was shooting on the island. I could sense quickly that he didn`t quite believe it. It was far too unreal. It was for me to. I didn`t want to believe it and thought about how stupid it must all sound. Like there was still a possibility of a logical, non-violent explanation to everything I had seen and heard.
The shots could have been fake. It could have been an act of some sort. Maybe the managers had forgotten to tell us about a war-reenactment on Utoya and that there was no need to panic when this happened. Everything was under control. For a moment I felt a fool sitting there, crying with my dad on the phone. But more shots were fired and I dropped this way of thinking. It could not possibly be an act. Everyone was running.
New shots were fired and I could feel them coming closer to where we were sitting. If someone with a gun came to where we were we`d have no chance. We had to find a better place to hide. While I called my dad, the guy I was hiding with called the emergency number. He told me that he was not the only one calling, but probably among the first. It`d now been several minutes since the first shots were fired.
A few metres from where we were sitting was a tree. The branches on this tree spread out a bit and had some low branches. I guessed this would be the best hiding place close to us. I crawled in and lied down in the bushes. As did the person hiding with me. I was so petrified now. I thought that watever happened now not a single sound must come from this bush, so I told my father to whisper in the phone and only if it`s absolutely necessary. He said to make a sound every now and again so he`d know I was still alive.
An hour and a half in a bush
The order in which thing happened after that is a bit unclear to me, but my phone started ringing repeatedly. A lot of people wanted to get a hold of me, but I rejected every call except one. I thought he could be told I was at Utoya and inform others that they must not call me. It made too much noise. Messages kept ticking in but I did not read them. I hated it intensely. I`m sorry. There were four thoughts in my head:
1. Don`t make unnecessary sounds
2. What to do if anyone finds me?
3. What should be my last words to my father?
4. What happens after death?
I solved the first one quite easily by not moving, despite the fact that I had ants crawling all over my body, biting me everywhere. I made sure I wasn`t wearing clothes that could reveal too easily that I was there. Fortunately I was not wearing anything red. I looked at the person next to me and assured myself he was sitting quietly and wasn`t wearing a lot of colours. He was not.
The second part was worse. If a person were to come here with a gun I`d have no chance to get away. There were no sticks in the bush that were big enough to knock someone out with. All the sticks there were rotting. Could I knock someone out with my iPad, that I for some reason still had in my hand? Probably not. Did the guy next to me have his phone still? Then we could throw it to another bush and call it to divert his attention for a little while so we could get away. Unfortunately he only had the battery in his hand. He didn`t have the rest of the phone anymore. At this point I realize that I have absolutely no chance if he comes here. Which is probably why the third thought kicked in. What do I want tha last thing my dad heares from me before I die? I realize that from the time I know that I`m dying until I actually do it`ll not be more than a couple of seconds. In those seconds I must acknowledge, accept, think out what to say and say it. Then it will all be black.
Or will it really be black? Do I want it to all be black? The thoughts are racing through my head. Energy cannot disappear or appear, so I will not disappear either. But, what if I am capable of perceiving that I am dead and that someone is mourning me? Do I want to perceive the grief the others have over me? No, really not. I was hoping it would all go black. Period.
There were an enormous amount of shots fired at Utoya. The mood is gloomy. I am terrified, it`s pouring down, it`s foggy and someone is actually trying to kill me. Could it be any worse?
About halfway through the drama a third person comes in to the bush. I have never seen him before, but he is talking loudly, attracting attention and by this threatening my very existence. I tell him to sit down and shut up or get away. He chooses the first, fortunately. He sits down and is quiet as a mouse for the rest of the time. About at this time I find out that the shooter is dressed like a policeman. I quietly tell the others. The guy who just came in says he already knows.
Time passes. The sound of the shots increase and decrease and sometimes they disappear, as if he comes closer sometimes and move away from us other times. All we can do is sit there and wait for the real police to come. If they are coming, that is…
Suddenly I start thinking that it`s not certain that they are coming. Why would they prioritize Utoya if there are a lot of bombs going off in Oslo? Right before the shooting started there was a rumour that there was a second bomb in Oslo. Why would they prioritize Utoya?
At some point I see another person I know walk towards the water. Then I hear a splash and I guess he started swimming. He`s far from the only one. At one point a lot of people passed where we could see out. The view was not good and we hoped the view in was at least as bad. We can hear them starting to swim. We hear more shots fired. This times the sound is very loud. Tre or five shots are fired and some of those who were going to the water comes running up again screaming that shots are being fired from land. I lost all hope then. I thougt that there were several shooters on the island and now someone was saying they were being shot at from the mainland as well. So when the police do get here they will have to secure the mainland before they can come over to the island. And if there are many bombs in Oslo (that`s how I perceived it at the time) they will have plenty of time to search the entire island and shoot everybody. This is very carefully planned, and there will not be, I though at the time, any shortage of ammunition.
At one time I heard a helicopter. I thought we were close to being saved. I am very relieved. Maybe I can survive this nightmare. But nothing else happens. The only thing I hear are more shots. A while after this my father tells me that the police has arrested someone at Utoya. I am relieved to learn that the police are on the island. But since I was convinced that there were several shooters I was still afraid to move.
I kept lying very still with my phone next to my ear and my iPad next to my heart. I had remembered a story I read about a person getting shot that was saved by having his phone in his pocket. Maybe my iPad could be as useful.
We all remained perfectly still. After a while three police officers came. They were armed and were standing right across from where we were lying. They looked right down at us. I knew that someone in a police uniform was shooting, so I saw no reason why these guys wouldn’t shoot us too. I signalled to the other two in the bush to lay still and don`t make a sound. They did what I said and the police officers moved on. They probably hadn`t seen us even though we saw them.
We stayed put. A few minutes later I heard boats getting close to the island. A few meters ahead of me I heard people coming to shore. A lot of commands were being shouted. We heard them split up. We looked at each other and somehow, without words, we agreed to come out of the bush. The last one to come in was closest to the way out. He could go out, I thought, without making too much noise. I was wrong, and the police saw the person. I understood that and hoped intensely that us still inside the bush still would not be discovered. I was waiting for another gunshot. For the person to fall dead to the ground. That it would be my fault, since I had partaken in sending him out. But the shot never came. Fortunately.
In no way did i feel safe, but concluded that if we could not trust these police officers I would not survive anyway so why not just get it over with. And so we came out of the bush and met four people from Special Forces aiming at us, searching us and told us to run to the pier while identifying ourselves. We did. Even more police officers were there aiming at us. Again I was afraid of gunshots. That we had been set up. My whole body told me to get away, and I almost did.
We were searched and put on a privately owned boat. For the first time in over an hour I felt somewhat safe. I had not heard shots for a while and the persons in uniform had not yet shot us.
When we reached land we met a lot of people who had already come across. Many had swum, others had gotten aboard a boat. People were panicking. Many had seen a lot. After a while we were driven to Sundvollen Hotell.
During the time that I was lying in the bush four of my friends were killed. So were 65 other people.