Survivors of a massacre which claimed the lives of 69 people in Norway last month have carried flowers to the site of the killings, laughter blending with tears as they remembered the joys of an island youth camp that turned into a scene of horror.
Stine Renate Haaheim, who survived the shooting spree on Utoeya island, said on Saturday that her feelings ranged from emptiness and extreme grief to joy when she returned to the place she had visited each summer for more than 10 years before the July 22 massacre.
“There was an extreme mix of feelings because it was very difficult and we are still in grief, but at the same time I was looking forward to seeing Utoeya. I was hoping that in some kind of way it will still be the same island as it used to be,” the 27-year-old lawmaker said after returning from Utoeya. “For me it was really important, I wanted to go back as soon as possible.”
The hardest part, she said, was seeing where her friends died.
“We started going around to all the places where our friends were killed and just taking a minute of silence and trying to remember all the good times we had with them and that was extremely hard, I think it’s not possible to explain the feelings,” Haaheim said, fighting back tears.
Many who returned to the island lit candles and laid handwritten notes in memory of their friends at the sites where they were shot during the summer camp organized by the youth wing of Norway’s Labor Party. They also gathered to sing, just like they used to do on Utoeya.
Eskil Pedersen, the leader of the party’s youth organization, said his visit to the island with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and several hundred youth politicians had been “heavy, but fine.”
“It was incredibly good to see them [the survivors] smiling again on Utoeya,” Pedersen told reporters.
Up to 1,000 survivors and relatives traveled to Utoeya on Saturday, accompanied by police and medical staff, to face the painful memories of the shooting spree by a right-wing extremist. Their visit followed a similar arrangement on Friday, when about 500 relatives of the deceased came to see the sites where they lost their loved ones.
Stoltenberg — the leader of the Norwegian Labor Party — said he had wanted to visit “to take part in their mourning and be there for them.”
Anders Behring Breivik has admitted killing 77 people on July 22 when he first detonated a truck bomb outside government offices in the capital, Oslo, and then went on a meticulously planned shooting spree on the island, about 40km away.
The right-wing extremist denies criminal guilt because he believes the massacre was necessary to save Norway and to punish politicians that have embraced multiculturalism.
Media were not allowed access to the heavily guarded island where Breivik spent 90 minutes executing the 69 people. Many of the victims were shot in the water as they tried to escape by swimming.
Norwegian General Director of Health Bjoern Inge Larsen said he hoped the visits would help survivors and families of the victims come to grips with the deaths.
“The people going there today ... have a lot of anxiety,” Larsen said. “They were life-threatened on this island four weeks ago in a very traumatizing manner, so what we are prepared for is to help them to overcome that anxiety.”
The operation included 400 health care workers, psychiatrists, police and other officials on the site to help the survivors.
Yesterday, a national memorial service was to be held at Oslo Spektrum arena and broadcast live on national TV to mark the end of a month of mourning in the country.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around