She last saw Anders Behring Breivik when he raised his rifle at her on the shore of a small Norwegian island and calmly pulled the trigger. Now, 18-year-old Alexandra Peltre will face him in court as he stands trial for killing 77 people that summer’s day.
“I saw him right in the eyes, and poof! I had a hole in my leg,” she said during a return to the wooded island where Breivik, an anti-Islam fanatic, killed 69 of his victims as they attended a Labour Party youth summer camp.
“I don’t take anything for granted anymore,” Peltre said, reflecting on the eight months since the massacre shook Norway.
Peltre was among the last people shot on Utoeya Island, and one of 33 who survived severe injuries. Earlier that day, Breivik had set off a fertilizer bomb at government headquarters in Oslo, killing eight and hurting more than 200.
His targets, he later said, were “traitors” whose politics let too many Muslims into Norway. Peltre hopes confronting him at his trial, due to start in just over a week, will help her put the woeful day behind her.
“After the court case, I think it will be easier to learn to live with what happened,” she said, reclining on the rocky spit where Breivik, now 33, cornered her.
Like Norway, she has become tougher and warier. She is still fashion crazy, she says, but “gallows humor” shades her buoyant sense of fun, and she recently got tattooed.
“I have these days when I am very sad,” she said.
She appears calm or even detached at times, but often wisecracking to cut the solemnity.
While she had dreamed of -being a model, she now fears the scar from her injury — a hole the size of a man’s fist that took three operations to close — could make that harder. So she wants to study acting and has learned some Shakespeare.
“I don’t think so much about the future because I don’t know what the next thing will be,” she said.
These days she puts more energy into her “passion for fashion” and a certain guy at school than into progressive politics. However, she is certain that multiculturalism, Breivik’s bugbear, is here to stay.
“I don’t feel like a traitor,” Peltre said. “I feel like a person who wants to make a change ... so everybody can live on earth and experience nice things and not just war and hate.”
She was born in Africa to an Angolan mother and a French father. At three, she came to Norway with her mother and a Norwegian army officer she calls “pappa,” and feels Norwegian to the core.
On top of Norwegian and English, she speaks her mother’s native Portuguese. She feels a little sorry for Breivik, who “doesn’t know what’s going on or what he’s missing.”
“Nobody told him the part where Norway has changed, and that people have changed for the better,” she said. “You can’t go around with a label that says: ‘I own Norway.’”
When she finishes secondary school, a goal she had to postpone after nine weeks in hospital, she intends to go to Africa and “help children get the chances that I have had.”
By the time Breivik aimed his Ruger semi-automatic rifle at Peltre, he had prowled Utoeya Island in a police uniform for about an hour, repeatedly luring youngsters by -saying he had come to save them.
“There was kind of a pattern,” she said. “First you heard the screams, then you heard the shooting. I seemed like it went on forever.”
She ran from hiding place to hiding place with a small group, shushing those who cried aloud and side-stepping still victims. When her turn with Breivik finally came she believed most of the 564 people on the island were dead.