Mass murderer Anders Breivik was sentenced today to a minimum of 21 years by a Norwegian court after going on a gun rampage and killing 77 people last summer. Here, survivor Kamzy Gunaratnam, 24, tells Grazia how she still can’t cry for her murdered friends… and why Breivik’s sentence will never bring justice for what he did.
Standing at the grave of one of my closest friend, I desperately willed the tears to start. Haward had been gunned down by Anders Breivik as we attended a political summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utoya. But instead of sadness, all I felt was absolute and total disbelief.
Because how do you begin to process the fact that not only has your best friend been murdered just metres away from you, so too have 68 other friends and classmates. And that you only escaped death by chance, swimming to safety while others on shore were being slaughtered.
Today, Breivik – who has admitted the shooting along with bombing a government building in Oslo, killing another nine people – was sentenced by a Norwegian court, who found him criminally sane. It’s hard to put into words how I feel at this point - although to be honest, it doesn’t matter what punishment he's been given. Nothing can bring my friends back… or change his warped ideology that he was ‘saving’ Norway from a Muslim takeover.
Anders Breivik in court today
July 22 2010 had begun like any other day on Utoya. I’d been to the from Norwegian Labour Youth (AUF) camp a couple of times before and this year we had 600 people attending, mostly aged between 14 and 25.
My first hint that something was wrong was when I arrived at a meeting and a colleague told me there’d been an explosion in Oslo. My heart pounded. ‘Surely it’s a gas leak?’ I whispered. I prayed it wasn’t a bomb.
Waiting to hear more news, we felt reassured that Utoya was the safest place to be. Yet minutes later, I head several loud bangs in the distance, like fireworks. Confused, I ran up towards the main building… to be met by another colleague sprinting towards me, his face panic-stricken. ‘Run’, he screamed.
Kamzy with her friend Havard
‘What are we running from?’ I yelled, as crowds of terrified people began to race towards me. In the chaos, I hid in a nearby toilet block, locking myself in a cubicle. As the bangs got closer they were followed by piercing screams… and I had the gut-wrenching realisation that it was gunfire.
In my panic, I was convinced that if I stayed in the toilet cubicle, I’d be killed. Taking a deep breath I slowly crawled outside, straight into a crowd of people frantically running. Suddenly my friend Matti appeared and, grabbing my hand, pulled me through a forest towards the beach.
When we reached the shore I stood on a boulder, trying to catch my breath. People were racing around in a panic as the sound of gunshots got nearer – some leaping into the sea to escape, others convinced this would mean they’d drown. 'We have to swim,' Matti told me. I wasn't a great swimmer but adrenalin kicked in and I knew I had to fight. Stripping off my jeans and boots, I dived in.
Pushing through the freezing water, I heard gunfire behind me. 'Kamzy, don't look back,' Matti ordered. 'What's happening back there?' I cried. He refused to answer. Five minutes later, a rescue boat pulled us both from the water. Gasping for breath and shaking, I was terrified that I could still be hit by a bullet.
Survivors place flowers on the shore
Only when we were safe did Matti admit that he'd seen the gunman standing on the same rock we'd sat on just moments before. The dead bodies of those who had refused to swim were scattered on the beach. Breivik had killed them.
Police took us to a local hotel where we discovered we were the first survivors. Overcome with shock, I watched as one by one other survivors arrived. They cried, screamed, and dropped to their knees. Yet despite all I'd been through, I couldn't cry.
After giving a statement to the police, my dad picked me up and we drove home in stunned silence. That night, I had horrible flashbacks of being in the water… and just waiting for a bullet to hit.
It wasn’t until the next day that I realised just how many people had died – including my friend Haward. I remember screaming, unable to accept it was true. In the days and weeks that followed, every time someone asked me about what happened, I felt like I was making it up. How could anyone slaughter so many innocent people? It just wasn’t possible.
Even the funerals of my friends didn’t help it sink in. There were so many, I simply couldn’t go to all of them. The ones I did, I was still unable to cry. Instead I went into survival mode.
I started my final year at Oslo University, I went shopping. But none of it felt real. Instead, I somehow learned to contain my grief, so that if I needed to eat a meal or sit an exam I could block out the trauma and get on with life.
The aftermath of Brevik's slaughter
As the months went on, I was in such a state of denial, I had to ask my lawyer to show me pictures of some of the people who’d died. They were so full of life I couldn’t accept that they were dead. I know it sounds extreme but it was the only way I could begin to process what happened. I don’t want to talk about what I saw… but it has helped me begin to accept that they really aren’t coming back.
Now, over a year on I still think about the shooting every day and wonder what I could have done differently. At the beginning of Breivik's court case, I watched the trial in a screening room next to the court room. I wanted to hear his explanation for why he did it. But when he blamed SATC’s Carrie Bradshaw’s sexually liberated lifestyle, and non-ethnic Norwegians taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest, as everything that’s wrong with our world today I was outraged at his lack of knowledge.
If he changed his closed-minded view of the world, I might be able to forgive him for what he did. I know it sounds strange, but my political beliefs are about making the world a better place where people aren’t afraid of each other. But I can’t see this happening.
Nothing will change what he did. Or the fact that, thanks to him, the lives of so many of my wonderful friends are over before they even began.
By Andrea Leebody