Europe

Norway attack: My life changed that day

Norwegians are holding a weekend of remembrance for the 69 people shot dead on the island of Utoeya and the eight others killed in a bomb attack in the capital, Oslo.

One man, Anders Breivik, has admitted the killings and is in custody.

Today, one of the victims who survived the shooting on the island spoke to the BBC about returning to the scene.

Stine Renate Haheim, Norwegian MP

Image caption 'We endured unspeakable horror'

Returning to the island was difficult. It was painful to revisit the places where Anders Behring Brevik had callously killed my friends and harrowing to see where the injured had fallen.

In the weeks that have followed, one of the most difficult challenges in the healing process has been remembering the events of that day. Since the attacks we have all struggled with the horror of that day and our versions of what happened. Conversely, this is one of the reasons why I have been looking forward to returning to Utoeya island.

I wanted to retrace my steps and find the places where I hid, cowering from the gunman. I needed to speak to other survivors, share our stories and piece together the fragments of what happened. The need for answers is one of the reasons why I went back.

In small groups we walked quietly around the island, pointing at familiar landmarks, places where we had eaten, debated furiously, socialised and laughed.

It is incredibly hard to forget the popping whizzing sound of the gunman's rifle after each round was discharged. I keep reliving the sound over and over again. I sobbed when I approached one of the buildings. It was the scene of indiscriminate carnage, a place where the gunman had stalked the grounds and where many of my friends lost their lives.

Most of the survivors, friends and the families of the victims found Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's speech extremely moving. He spoke about the need to honour the victims by reclaiming the island. He also spoke about Utoeya's significance as a melting pot of political ideas and tolerance. His speech offered comfort and a concrete hope for the future.

I feel lucky to be here. I was happy to meet friends again, renew old bonds and mourn those whose lives were cut short so brutally. I do not want to dwell on the destruction caused by the gunman or on the confusion that followed the shooting. At the mere mention of his name I feel nothing, I feel empty. I do not want to devote any time to him.

My focus now is on the forthcoming elections. They are an important reminder that our democracy is fragile but important. I want to encourage everyone to cast their vote regardless of the political party. We are a small nation and this has been a terrible test. Collectively we have shown extraordinary courage. Norwegians cannot allow one man to obliterate our way of life.

I am still trying to come to terms with what happened. I can never understand what drove the gunman to unleash such horrific violence, but among the survivors there was little desire for rage or retribution.

We endured unspeakable horror and survived. The massacre was inexplicable and now the difficult process of rebuilding our lives begins.

Interview by Elisabeth Ukanah