Survivor Describes Moments of Terror in Attack in Norway

OSLO — Tore Sing Bekkedal cowered in a bathroom for most of the 90 minutes during which a Norwegian gunman unleashed his carnage on Friday on the island of Utoya, a sanctuary for center-left political debate.

During the ordeal, Mr. Bekkedal said, his feelings flitted between confusion, incredulity, terror and panic, mixed with more lucid and measured moments, before help finally arrived. “At times I was shaking and out of control, at times there was a kind of rationality,” he said. “I was trying to plan my strategy, how to escape.”

On Monday, all the horror, shock and pain remained fresh.

Yet Mr. Bekkedal, 23, said he did not want to consider retribution against the suspect in the attack, or the possibility of curbing civil rights in the effort to fight terrorism. Like many other young people here, he said he hoped that the wave of good will that had spread across this small nation in the past few days would serve to maintain Norway’s core values of democracy, justice and openness to the outside.

“It would be very easy to be angry at this time,” he said. “I remember those 90 minutes as absolute agony.”

But he said the man charged in the case, Anders Behring Breivik, “wants anger and he wants attention,” and Mr. Bekkedal said he was not ready to give that to him.

“He’s a small person,” he said. “I don’t want to give him the attention.”

Survivors and those close to them have expressed a mixture of guilt, anger, stoicism and confusion about Friday’s events.

Mr. Bekkedal, who described himself as a high school dropout and an “alpha geek,” said he was on the island as a broadcast technician and software engineer. He had been to Utoya five times before and was one of the oldest among the 600 to 700 young people there on Friday.

He had just finished making a video with former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland when the shooting started.

From inside a bathroom, he heard the “pop, pop” of a handgun from outside and “thought it was a joke, a toy gun someone sounding off a fake gun.”

He said that he was convinced that “someone was making a joke in incredibly bad taste” and stormed out “with the intent of halting it.”

As he opened the door, he saw two of his friends hiding in a corner. “Their facial expressions left absolutely no doubt that this was no toy,” he said. They motioned for him to go back into the bathroom. If they had not signaled to him, he would have run straight into the gunman, he said.

“They saved my life,” he said. As he looked out into the hallway, he saw a young boy lying in a pool of blood, motioning for help but Mr. Bekkedal was unable to move. The boy later died from his wounds.

Mr. Bekkedal said he thought that his life was saved a second time when someone who worked in the camp cafe led him to an employee bathroom, which was tucked away inside the building. The building had a thick door, and it was there that he and two other people waited until the police finally arrived to evacuate the survivors.

As he left under police protection, he said, he saw several people bunched together in a corner. Some were screaming, others lay still.

Mads Andenas, a law professor, said that his niece had survived the gunman’s rampage, but that she was too traumatized to speak. Three of his students were killed on the island; another is missing and presumed dead.

But Mr. Andenas, a professor of law at the University of Oslo and a former director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, said he was angry at the authorities, who he said were slow to respond, and at the political establishment for allowing extremism to take root in Norway.

He said he wanted to know why it took the police 90 minutes to stop the slaughter and refused to accept the bombing in central Oslo as an excuse.

“The police operation was bungled, one of the most bungled operations of its kind,” Mr. Andenas said. “We have many questions about the police inaction. Their account reads as a tragedy of errors.”

“We have failed the young people at the Young Socialist summer camp,” he said.

Some reports in the local media have suggested that a helicopter that would usually have been used to respond to the emergency on the island had been taken out of service over the summer holidays. There were also reports of a police boat’s engine failure.

But beyond such issues, which are sure to be addressed in inquiries, Mr. Andenas also said he saw a failure by the government in Norway and governments in other Western countries to track right-wing extremists spreading hatred of foreigners and immigrants.

But Mr. Bekkedal, the survivor, said he wanted to look ahead and was considering a career in politics.

“I’m still thinking about it,” he said. “At least part of me wants to honor the people who have been taken away by trying to pick up where they left off.”

Source: New York Times

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