Utøya opens to the press

Photo: Kim Erlandsen, NRK

Photo: Kim Erlandsen, NRK

Labor Party Youth invite the international press for the first time since the July 22 shootings.

by Christy Olsen Field

On Oct. 3, the Labor Party Youth (AUF) opened Utøya to the press, 10 weeks after the July 22 shooting rampage by Anders Behring Breivik that led to the death of 69 people. Police closed the island after July 22, and the AUF hosted two weekends for survivors, families and relatives to visit the island before it was opened to the press.

“I realize that many of you feel it has been a long time since July 22, and perhaps should have been here before. That, I understand,” said AUF leader Eskil Pedersen. “In return I ask for your understanding that the feeling is not mutual. It has not been a long time for all survivors, relatives and our organization. This place, this island, means very much to so many.”

More than 150 journalists and photographers from around the world took the five-minute trip to the island on the M/S Thorbjørn – the same ferry that carried Breivik on the rainy afternoon of his gun rampage.

Donors have pledged more than NOK 32 million (USD 5.5 million) to renovate the island, dotted with camping grounds, football fields and basketball courts, said Pedersen.

There were few outward signs of the horrific attack on the small, peaceful forested island, apart a few shattered windows and bullet holes in the cafe near the main building. Police had cleared away evidence for their investigation.

He said that youth camps would resume on the island, but a decision had not yet been taken on when that would be. The party also plans a commemorative monument on the island.

“Although the AUF as an organization should take Utøya back, so we have always said and I repeat it now: Not everyone wants to come back to the island. We all react differently to what happened. I know several who will not come out here again. There is a choice we should respect,” said Pedersen.

Adrian Pracon, a 21-year-old survivor says re-opening the island, 25 miles north west of the capital, Oslo, is important so that “people understand what happened there.”

In August, about 1,000 survivors and relatives traveled to Utøya, accompanied by police and medical staff, to face the painful memories of the shootings. A day earlier, there was a similar visit by 500 people.

There were few outward signs of the horrific attack on the small, peaceful forested island, apart from a few shattered windows and bullet holes in the cafe near the main building. Police had cleared away evidence for their investigation.

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