Norway massacre island opens for media
- 4 October 2011
- From the section Europe
Norway has opened the island of Utoeya to the media for the first time since confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik massacred 69 people at a youth camp in July. Our correspondent, Steve Rosenberg, was among 150 journalists taken to the island where holiday camps are to reopen.
To get to Utoeya, we board the MS Thorbjorn - the same passenger ferry that took Anders Breivik to the island on 22 July.
Dressed as a policeman, and heavily armed, he'd set off with one aim: to commit mass murder.
As the MS Thorbjorn nears Utoeya, I find it hard to imagine the horrors which unfolded there.
Even under the cover of thick cloud, this tiny island looks so beautiful.
It's like a jewel in the middle of Lake Tyrifjorden. Its forests of pine and silver birch are an explosion of autumn colour.
Frozen in time
Within minutes, we reach the island. I leave the ferry and pass the white administration building. It is here that Breivik shot his first victims.
The island looks strangely normal. It's almost as if the Young Labour summer camp has been frozen in time.
At the storehouse, the entertainment schedule for the day of the attack is still pinned to the wall.
It lists what the campers should have been doing that evening: football at 18:00, then a disco at 22:30.
The summer camp refreshment tent 'Utoeya Waffles' is still standing. There are neat rows of picnic tables.
The island kiosk still has supplies in the shop window: toothpaste, shampoo and hot chocolate.
The poster behind the glass declares: 'Utoeya: Welcome to the island. The Nordic Paradise.'
Anders Breivik's shooting spree on Utoeya had lasted more than seventy minutes. He killed 69 people.
As I walk around the island I see hints of the carnage: boarded-up windows and some bullet holes.
I find a nature trail known as the 'Love Path'. It leads through the forest to cliffs.
During the attack, some of the campers had climbed down here and taken cover in the rocks. Breivik had shot at them from the fence above.
Others tried to swim to safety through the icy waters of the lake. The gunman targeted them, too.
I move on to the 'School Hut'. During the shooting, 47 people had barricaded themselves in here.
Among them was Jorid Nordmelan. I met Jorid in Oslo before my trip to Utoeya. She told me her dramatic story.
"I picked up my mattress and put it in front of the window," Jorid recalls.
"Then I crawled under the bed. Right at that moment someone was shooting at the door in the living room."
"We were so scared because we knew we had lost control of our lives. We couldn't run anywhere.
"I actually thought through my own funeral. I planned what kind of tunes to be played and which priest I wanted. I was certain this was my final hour," she said.
"Then we got our mobile phones working and started checking the news. I saw that the BBC was covering the story. I thought, 'What? The BBC covering Norway? Something enormous must be happening'."
Even after Anders Breivik was arrested, Jorid's ordeal was not over.
"Then I saw him. The person who did this. He was standing there with handcuffs on in front of the main house.
"He looked kind of evil. But he was laughing. So I thought this couldn't be him.
"It had to be some mistake. Because I didn't think that anyone who shot so many people could be laughing afterwards".
Jorid was among the last group of survivors to leave Utoeya. Only on reaching the mainland did she realise the scale of the tragedy.
"There were body bags lying everywhere. We could see feet sticking out and white plastic covering heads.
"I couldn't believe it. I cracked and fell down. I couldn't stand on my feet any more," she said.
"I think about what happened every day. I hope I will think about this every single day for the rest of my life.
"I hope it will fill me up in a good way, so that I have perspective. And make me remember how lucky I am to be alive."