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Images of the Day
Powerful Photos Of Survivors From Norway’s Utoya Massacre
May 17, 2013
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Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
"Every time I look at myself in the mirror, I feel sorry. I lost my left arm and left leg. The wheelchair will follow me the rest of my life. I used to take responsibility for the family, driving the car and helping my mother out. Now it is her who helps me. It makes me sad." - Mohamad, 21

It's been more than a year and a half since the Utoya massacre in Norway.

On July 22, 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Breivik detonated a car bomb in Oslo, killing eight people and injuring 209.

Less than two hours later, he attacked a summer camp on the island of Utoya, killing 69 people - most of them youths - and injuring at least 110.

The camp was hosting an annual gathering of young members of Norway's Workers' Youth League, the largest political youth organization in the country.

The Youth League is affiliated with the Norwegian Labour Party, and Per Gunnar Dahl, a political adviser to the party, said at the time that Breivik had murdered some of the most promising people in the country.

"It has been a traditional camp where young people have met and discussed politics and many, many of our leaders have participated on Utoya for many years," he told CNN.

"Some of the brightest and best politicians Norway has brought up have been a part of that island and the history of that island, since the camps have gone back for so many years."

Breivik targeted the camp because of its association with the Labour Party.

It was Norway's deadliest attack since the Second World War, and it left the country reeling. A survey conducted afterwards found that on average, one in four Norwegians knew someone affected by the attacks.

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
"I carry my scars with dignity because I got them for something I believe in. It's my attitude in life. It keeps me standing. This is how things are, and I have to deal with it. It helps no one if I sink into depression, least of all myself, so I keep my head up and focus on the good things in life." - Ylva, shot in the shoulder, stomach and thighs during the Utoya massacre

That day, photographer Andrea Gjestvang was in the offices of the newspaper Verdens Gang, one of the buildings struck by the car bomb.

Gjestvang was working at the paper as a temporary photo editor, and had never seen anything like that day. She ran home and got her gear so she could capture the aftermath of the explosion.

"It was absurd, because I was working as a picture editor and I didn't have my cameras," she told The New York Times. "I found myself in the middle of what happened, and I was very scared and almost paralyzed."

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
"I would have loved to be able to say that my life has somehow gained a new dimension or some sort of deeper meaning after this, but I'm not sure. Nothing is how it used to be. My body has drastically changed. My best friend is gone. Many other friends are gone, too. All I want is to live a normal life, but it's hard when everything around me has changed." - Hanne, 20

The day after the attacks, Gjestvang went to the hotel where uninjured camp survivors were being reunited with family members and examined by doctors.

She took photos of some of the survivors for the paper, an experience that was painful for her. "It was terrible to be there," she said.

The attacks have been widely covered by the media in Norway and around the world. But Gjestvang wanted to explore the experience of individuals who survived, and "tell the story differently than in media headlines."

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
Viljar, 18, was shot five times: in the head, left shoulder, left hand, and thigh. He was blinded in his right eye and lost three fingers.

These photos are the result. She started taking pictures of some survivors five months after the attacks and continued to meet with those who were willing to be photographed.

She also interviewed her subjects, so she could include their words with the photos to offer a fuller understanding of how their lives had changed.

The shots were published in a book called "En Dag i Historien" ("A Day in History"), which was published in Norway this year.

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
A tattoo on the arm of a girl who lost her little finger in the attack.

Because the attacks have touched so many lives, Gjestvang says she had to be extremely careful as she spoke to and photographed the survivors.

"I had to be very aware of every little step in the process," Ms. Gjestvang said, "because the 22nd of July is such a sensitive topic in Norway and everyone has an opinion."

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
"The fall of 2011 was the time when I had to get used to life without my best friend Andreas. We would hang out every single day, and now he's gone. Left is an empty void. The yearning for him is constantly there." - Marius, 18, hid on a rock shelf during the shooting. Andreas fell and died trying to climb down to his best friend's hiding place.

Here is part of her introduction to the project:

"They have returned to their daily lives now. They go to school, they hang out with friends and they fall in love. They go to bed every night and look at themselves in the mirror in the morning. But something has changed. The young survivors will live on with their scars -- both visible and mental -- many of which may never fully heal.

Some have difficulties handling the easiest tasks, and many struggle to find meaning in life. On the other hand, some of the survivors have gained a stronger belief in themselves, and they appreciate being alive."

To see more photographs and read the full story behind them, visit The New York Times Lens Blog.

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
Anzor, 17, was falsely accused of having taken part in the massacre when he came out of hiding place after the attack.

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
"I like to sit here because I feel that my dead friends are in the nature that surrounds us. In that way they are close, even if they are gone." - Aina, 19

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
"My life changed in more than one way. In primary school, kids used to make fun of me. I felt sad and I retreated completely into myself. After Utoya, I have managed to return to the real me. Of course there are moments when I'm sad about what happened. But generally, I'm more positive, social, and I appreciate life." - Cecilie, 17

Photo: Andrea Gjestvang/Moment
"I remember sitting by the shore with my back to everything that was happening. The only thing I could see was water and the land on the other side. I was convinced that I was going to bleed to death. But I wasn't afraid. Dying seemed like the easiest way out. After Utoya, I'm no longer scared of death." - Eirin Kristin, 20, was shot several times trying to protect some of her younger friends

Via The New York Times


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