When Hell Came To Utoeya by Prableen Kaur
“When Hell came to Utøya… “
Originally written by Prableen Kaur
Translated by Alexander Van Dorph
Original article (in Norwegian): http://prableen.origo.no/-/bulletin/show/672218_helvete-paa-utoeya?ref=mst
“As it happened…” BBC article summing up the tragic attacks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14254705
... "This article was written by Prableen Kaur following the tragic events which occurred in Oslo, Norway and Utøya. A bomb went off in the political district of Oslo, killing at least 7 people. This was followed by an attack on the Norwegian Labour Party’s annual youth summer camp at Utøya, killing at least 85 young ones, mainly in the age group of 15-20yoa. Prableen was a participant at the camp, and this is her heartbreaking story from the core of the destruction." ...
I am wide awake… I can’t sleep anymore… I am in the living room… feelings of sorrow, anger, being alive, god… I can’t explain it, can’t put words on the wide array of emotional states I am going through. There are just too many feelings. I am afraid… even the smallest noise makes me jump with fear and a feeling of uttermost despair. I am now going to write about the tragic events which occurred at Utøya on the 22nd July 2011; what my eyes saw, what I felt, what I did. My words are straight from the heart, however, I have anonymized a lot of names in respect to my friends and their loved ones.
Having heard of the bombing which had taken place in Oslo earlier in the day, we had just attended a crisis briefing meeting in the main building. This meeting was followed by a meeting solely for the members from Akershus and Oslo. Naturally, following the end of the meetings, a lot of people were both inside and around the main building. We comforted eachother, and it was said that; “at least we are safe on this island.” No one knew hell was about to break loose at our idyllic summer camp.
I was standing by the main entrance of the main building when a feeling of panic started to break out. I heard gunshots. I could see him shooting. Everybody started to run. My first thought was; “Why the hell is the police shooting at us??” (The gunman was disguised as a policeman) I ran into the building, into one of the conference rooms. People were running. Screams filled the air. I was afraid… I managed to get into one of the rooms located at the deepest point of the building. There was a whole group of people there. We were all lying down on the floor, trying to be quiet. We heard several gunshots. Got even more afraid. People were crying. I was confused, scared. Peeping quickly through the window I could see my best friend, and I wanted to go get him and bring him to safety. I did not make it. I could see the fear in his eyes. We stayed at the floor for some more time, minutes, which felt like hours. We agreed not to let any more people inside, in case the assailant showed up. Suddenly, we heard several gunshots and decided to flee, jumping out of the window. Panic emerged. I was the last one to exit the window and I remember thinking;
“I am the last one out. I am the one which is going to die. But maybe that is alright, as that will buy the others some time.”
I threw my purse out of the window, tried to climb out of the window, but slipped and hit the ground hard, landing on my left side. A boy helped me up. We ran into the woods. I looked around frantically, always fearing that the shooter might show up. “Is he here? Can he see me? Is he aiming at me?” A girl had broken her ankle, another girl was severely injured. I tried to help out, before heading down to the water. We sought cover behind some kind of concrete wall, we were many. I prayed. I prayed God would help me. I called my mom from my mobile phone and told her that I loved her and that I might never see her again. She was crying. It hurt. I sent a text message to my dad telling him I loved him. I also sent another text to a person I care dearly about. We texted back and forth a bit. I sent a text message to my best friend, he did not reply. We heard more gunshots. We crept closer together, seeking a feeling of warmth and safety. So many terrible thoughts went through my mind; I was so afraid. Dad called me, I cried, telling him that I loved him. He told me he was underway with my brother, and would pick me up when I got off the island. There was so many thoughts, so many feelings… I prayed all I could.
Some time passed. The others called their parents as well. Calling turned into texting as a fear that the attacker would hear us. My thoughts went to my sister who is out travelling… I wanted to let her know what was going on, what was happening to me. I updated my Facebook status and twitter, stating that I was alive and “safe”. I wrote that I was waiting for the police. People started jumping into the water, began to swam towards the other side, towards safety. I stayed put, lying down, I decided that if he showed up I would play dead. I can’t describe the fear, the feelings, the emotional state I was in.
A man suddenly showed up, stating that he was from the police. He was wearing a police uniform. Somebody shouted to him that they wanted him to prove it. I can’t remember what he replied, but next second he started shooting. He reloaded. Fired several more shots. The shots hit the people around me. I stayed lying down. I thought; “This is it. It is all over... he is here, he is going to get me… I am going to die.” People were screaming. I heard and saw others getting shot around me. More people jumped into the water. I was still lying there, with my mobile in my hand. I was lying across the legs of a girl. To others were lying over me. I tried to not move. My mobile rung several times… text messages kept triggering the vibration function of the phone… I stayed put, playing dead. I was there for at least an hour. It was dead quiet. I turned my head slowly to see if I could see any others which were still alive. All I could see, was… blood and corpses. Fear. I decided to get up; I had been lying across a dead person, with two dead lying on top of me. I must have had a guardian angel watching over me.
I did not know if he would be back, so I had to move fast. I did not have time to check who had called- and texted me. I rushed down towards the water. Removed my sweater, so that it would be easier to swim. I put my mobile in my back pocket and jumped into the water. There were several other people in the water, they had already swum a long distance. I could see that they were gathering next to what looked like some sort of floating device. Plenty of boats were in action picking up the people swimming for their lives, some of them which reported getting fired at by the assailant. I swam, swam, then swam some more. Got really tired and had to change my swimming technique, swimming on my back. For a short while it seemed like the floatation device was moving away from me. I screamed, begging them to wait for me. I cried, and started to tremble with coldness. Feeling like it was only a matter of time before I would drown. I swam a couple of hundred metres more before reaching the floatation device, I grabbed it and hung on. There were several other people there, we talked a bit. Said where we were from, what our names were… when boats came close by, we would scream out for help, but they focused on getting the ones which were still swimming first. A boat finally arrived, driven by a man, who threw life vests to us. Before it proceeded to picking up someone else. We hung on to the floatation device until the same man came back to pick us up. We all got into the small boat, and he started heading towards land. The overfilled boat started to take in water, so I grabbed a bucket to get as much water as possible out of the boat. I was exhausted, so another girl took over. We made it to land, and were given blankets. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, I cried. A woman gave me a hug, it felt so good. A man lent me his phone, and I quickly called my dad; “I am alive. I made it. I am safe.” I hung up, before crying heavily again.
People, complete strangers who was there to help, got us into their cars and drove us to Sundvollen Hotel. I ran in to see if I could see my friends, and my best friend. I could not see him anywhere. I saw another friend, we hugged. It felt great. I walked around looking for my friends. My heart was pounding heavily in my chest. Tears…
I registered with the police, and went through the lists. I did not know if my best friend was alive or not, I could not find his name anywhere… I was afraid. I was given a blanket and changed out of my wet clothes. I tried to make sense of what I had gone through, but I just couldn’t. I contacted my parents again, my dad and big brother was on their way to pick me up. I had some cocoa. I sat down in heavy thoughts. More tears… Saw some more friends, hugged them and cried. Somebody lent me their laptop, so I updated my Facebook and twitter telling my friends that I was safe.
I spent several hours at the hotel before my family arrived. In the meantime, I talked to a priest, I told him about the terrible things I had seen. It was a good conversation. A man from Red Cross had a look at my wounds and cleaned them. Time went by, I was with some of my friends, everybody was telling their story of how they had survived. I kept asking people if they had seen my best friend, but nobody had seen him. I was afraid, thinking that it was my fault for not being able to stick together with him. A friend of mine got a key for a hotel room, we sat down there, watched the news. It was anger, sorrow, fear… so many feeling. Dad called me, they had arrived. I took the elevator downstairs and ran out to meet them. I hugged my dad and big brother intensely for a long time. I was crying, my brother cried as well. It was a good moment. I suddenly noticed someone which looked like my best friend, and I called his name. He turned around. It was him.
We hugged for a long time, still crying, before we shared our story of how we had survived. After a while I registered with the police again, so that I could leave the premises and go home. We had some extra room in the car, so some other people came with us. My best friend came home with us. His brother awaited at our home with his best friend, it was a whole bunch of people which had gathered at ours, and it was an emotional return. We talked for a while. I had a glass of juice and a yoghurt. I talked a bit more with mom and my family. I called my best girl-friend. She said; “I was not sure if I would ever get this call.” Tears… we talked for a bit, afterwards I went to bed. The time was 3am. My mom did not want me to sleep alone, so we slept in the same room.
It has now been a number of hours since this tragic event occurred, and I am still in shock. All the feelings have not sunk in yet, and it feels quite surrealistic. I have seen several of my friends getting killed. More of my friends are still missing.
I am happy that I can swim. I am happy that I am still alive, that God protected me. So many feelings, so many thoughts… my thoughts go out to those who died, and those who have lost loved ones. I think about all the people I have lost. I think about the hell which was and still is on the island.
The dreams of the summer’s most beautiful adventure turned into Norway’s worst nightmare...
- Prableen Kaur
Translation by Alexander Van Dorph
- Prableen Kaurs blogg : Helvete p Utya
Helvete p Utya - Prableen's blog (in Norwegian)
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