What did it look like outside Høyblokka – the high-rise building – when the bomb went off in the Government Quarter? What memories are the young people from Utøya left with in the wake of the attack on the AUF summer camp? What is it like to lose loved ones in a terror attack, and how are the survivors, the bereaved and others affected by the 22 July events today? What do those who were there think we need to talk about when we talk about 22 July, 2011 — and what can we learn from what happened?
“My story – personal accounts from and about 22 July” presents some of the stories of those who experienced 22 July 2011 up close in various ways.
Through meetings between witnesses and pupils in The 22 July Centre, and in video clips and written eyewitness accounts published here on our website, those affected tell their own stories about 22 July 2011.
The many 22 July stories
There are countless stories about 22 July. Virtually everyone who lived in Norway on that day in 2011 has a story of their own about where they were, what they thought when the news came about the bomb in Oslo, and when they first heard about the shooting on Utøya. For those who were directly affected, either in the Government Quarter or on Utøya, there are as many stories as people who were there.
The stories we convey here, through video recordings and written personal accounts, do not make up the full story of 22 July. So far only a few of the stories have been gathered here, and they are not representative of the diversity of stories from and about the terror attack on the Government Quarter and the AUF summer camp. However, they do provide an important insight into some of the experiences and reflections which those who were present carry with them.
Among the personal accounts, one will hear, see and read different descriptions of the same incident. There are different descriptions of the same sound that was heard as the bomb went off outside Høyblokka, of how the blast impacted people at work to varying degrees, what people thought when they first heard about the shooting on Utøya, what they did and did not do during the attack on the AUF summer camp, where they were, what they saw. Stories of what it was like to experience the terror from a distance, while someone they cared about was in the middle of the events. The witness accounts also provide different perspectives on what terror means, both in terms of the different impact it has had on those affected, and what they think of the 22 July story today.
With this material— and through the upcoming collection of different types of witness accounts – we wish to showcase the diversity of stories about 22 July, describing the impact for those who experienced that day up close, and their views on the meaning of terrorism.
The value of personal accounts
Personal stories play a special part in the historical storytelling, especially in the history of traumatic events. Eyewitness accounts create a closeness to the events that have happened where the witness is the one who creates and relays this closeness. As documentary representations, they are a source to the past, but they also have unique characteristics precisely due to their nature as personal accounts. They are subjective stories, in which each person’s specific experiences and impressions are mingled with memories, feelings and knowledge that is provided in the time after the event. In several of the videos here you will notice that many of those who were there talk of memories that alternate between being clear and blurry. About memory that fails them – and images that are burned into their memory forever.
Personal stories are particularly valuable precisely because they give us an insight into the subjective experience of an event and how a trauma like 22 July can impact on people’s lives. Such witness accounts are also central to the understanding of everything that happened on 22 July 2011 – important pieces that, together with other sources, can form a greater picture of the impact of terrorism on individuals and society as a whole.
- Read written witness accounts (coming soon)
Here you can read about the background and purpose of the project