In the wake of last week’s devastating shooting attack on the Norwegian island of Utøya, several tales of individual heroism and survival are now starting to emerge.
One 32-year-old roofer from Germany, for example, sped on his boat to the island, and helped guide many young people who had tried to swim away from the massacre back safely to shore.
“I just did it on instinct,” Marcel Gleffe told The Telegraph. “You don’t get scared in a situation like that, you just do what it takes. I know the difference between fireworks and gunfire. I knew what it was about, and that it wasn’t just nonsense.”
Gleffe was camping with his parents on the mainland directly across from Utøya. The three were discussing the recent bombing in Oslo when Gleffe heard some shots and then saw a teenager swimming to shore, yelling “help,” he told Der Spiegel. He immediately realized that the shooting he heard was connected to the Oslo bombing, and he jumped in a small boat his family had rented for the trip and began speeding to the island.
Gleffe says he helped at least 20 teens get to shore, throwing out life jackets and making several trips in his boat to the island and back to the mainland. Some of the fleeing teenagers were frightened to accept his help, since the accused gunman was dressed as a policemen and told his victims to come closer before he opened fire. “It was unbelievable to see how strong they were,” he told Der Spiegel of the campers. At least 150 people were pulled out of the water after the massacre, and psychologists told the German paper that many of them are suffering from crushing survivors’ guilt.
One survivor, 16-year-old Ingvild Stensrud, told Ann Curry on the Today Show that after she’d been shot in the leg, she played dead in order to survive. She lay under the body of a dead woman until the shooter left the building.
The accused mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, wrote a 1,500-page manifesto railing against multiculturalism and Muslim immigration, among other things. He attacked a political camp for young people run by the country’s ruling Labour party. ”I think it’s horrible, and it’s horrible that my friends were killed, that I was shot, because I believe in a multicultural Norway; for my beliefs,” Stensrud said. A Ugandan man at the camp said he hid in a tree to escape the shooting.
Even Norway’s royal family has been personally affected by the tragedy: the stepbrother of the Crown Princess of Norway, Mette Marit, was gunned down by the assassin. Trond Berntsen was an off-duty police officer who was hired as security for the island, and was one of the first people whom Breivik killed, according to The Daily Mail.
At least 100,000 people gathered today in an anti-violence rally in Oslo, Reuters reported. Both Princess Metter Marit and her husband, Crown Prince Haakon, were in attendance. “Tonight the streets are filled with love,” Crown Prince Haakon said.