Silje Tobiassen was a teenager when her friend convinced her to join the Workers’ Youth League (AUF), the youth organization of the Norwegian Labour Party. The group held their summer camps on Utøya, an island 40 minutes away from Oslo. Tobiassen’s friend described the island to which they would travel in July 2011 as “Norway’s most beautiful fairy tale.”
Tobiassen had spent a few days on that island before a self-declared fascist came after her and her compatriots with a gun.
Utøya was so small that Tobiassen could hear screaming from where she stood on the other side of the island, the gunshots getting closer and farther away as she jumped from hiding spot to hiding spot.
Amid the chaos, she saw the shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, twice. First, she hid at the pumping station, where Breivik stopped for a moment and pretended to be a police officer, waiting for at least 15 teenagers to appear before murdering them.
The second time Tobiassen saw him, she was hiding behind a tree in a swamp, submerged to her waist in 41-degree water for 40 minutes. She stayed out of sight in the forest, lying next to a girl using heavy rocks to stem the blood from four gunshot wounds.
Eventually, help came and Tobiassen — along with other AUF children — ferried back to the mainland. Many others weren’t so lucky.
In the end, Breivik killed 69 people on Utøya, the majority under 20 years old, and left 110 wounded. It was the worst mass shooting in recorded history.
Another eight died from the bomb Breivik had planted in Oslo earlier that morning, its blast seriously injuring another 12 and leaving a further 209 casualties.
Between the two attacks, Anders Behring Breivik had, in one day, snuffed out the lives of 77 and devastated the lives of 319 more — and that’s not even counting those who managed to escape without physical harm, let alone the loved ones of those who didn’t.