I wrote a Norwegian post explaining my experience at Utøya. I had taken this blog for dead, and had entirely forgotten that it was syndicated on Planet Debian. I don’t want to let Google Translate make this disaster any worse than it is – the translation of “bullets” into “balls” being particularly bad – so the international attention the massacre has garnered in consideration, I am writing an English translation of my experiences. I feel somehow duty-bound to make people aware of what happened, but I don’t want to get into anything else but a sober description of the events and some very brief reflections. There are many details I have chosen to omit.
Others have written their experiences of the events at Utøya. I wanted to write mine down as well, and “get it out there”. Partly, I want to write this down because I’m unsure if I will remember all the details at a later point in time, although I think I’d prefer it if I couldn’t. I’m also writing this because people are asking about my experiences and it’s much better to have an URL to give them, lest I have to keep going through the same spiel over and over again.
Oslo, my home, was bombed on Friday. July 22, 2011, at 15:26 in the afternoon. A powerful explosion in the middle of our capital, at the heart of Norway. Several people were killed, many more injured, the whole city wounded and marked for ever......
.... For the past two years I have lived in Gaza, working for a Norwegian humanitarian organisation. I've experienced many bombings and lived close to people who have lost more than one can imagine, and lived through terrifying experiences. Recently I moved home to Oslo after four years abroad. I started to use a bicycle helmet to be safe. I thought Oslo was the calmest place on earth.
Then the bomb rocked the building I was in. I ran out. There was dusty smoke in the air and store alarms going off. But there were no sirens, no screams; people were not panicking. Many were taking pictures and talking on phones. I ran towards the blast site. There were no police or ambulances there yet. I remember thinking that there were few people around - the injured who could walk had probably left, and some were being carried out as I came. I saw two people lying on the ground, being cared for by passers-by. The open square surrounding the main governmental building was filled with broken glass and mangled debris, but it felt quiet, empty, bombed.
I continued until I was standing at the entrance of the main building. There I saw a severely injured person whom, together with another person, I helped. When the ambulances came, we managed to get all the injured people I could see out. Then the police closed off the area in fear of more bombs. I thought of those who must be bleeding inside the bombed buildings. Within an hour there were enough ambulances and no need for civilian assistance.
I left and started calling people on the phone. It was then I heard about the second attack, the one on the island. I could not believe it and did not understand it. I thought it was a shoot-out with the police. When I realised that young people were caught on an island with a man shooting at them, I became cold, filled with disbelief.
In some ways, a bomb attack in a capital, even in Norway, is something most people can imagine and relate to. But I don't think anyone could imagine a man systematically killing young people at a summer camp outside Oslo.
The morning after, when I heard the number of people killed, I was numbed. The enormity of the tragedy. All the families across Norway where the youth camp participants came from. The grief. The loss.