The accusedarrived at court today smiling. And he left it smiling.
The rest of usonly knew the pain from the bloody photographs which we will never forget andthe sorrow of a brave man who witnessed his partner being executed. She wasshot at point-blank range but he could do nothing to help. He could only runfor his life. Run to the boat.
After that hegot the boat to safety – away from the island where his daughter was stillbeing hunted by a frenzied murderer. Every single shot he heard through theengine’s hum could have been the sound of his daughter’s death.
Then hisyoungest daughter suddenly called. She was wondering if her dad could come andfetch her on land soon. She was looking forward so much to spending the nighton Utøya with her older sister … We heard thestory from an ordinary father, caught up in chaos and pain beyond comprehension.Both his daughters are alive today, but their mum will never be coming home.
It was badenough hearing the murderer speak about it, but much worse when the story istold by people who actually feel something.
One of thosewho is also hurt is Eskil Pedersen, the 28-year-old who was going to lead hisfirst summer camp on Utøya.
But he isstrong, impressively strong. So strong that it is also used against him.
“This isn’t ashell that I hide inside. I am doing well, and perhaps a bit better than journalistsand a few others think I should,” he says, smiling bravely.
Lifegoes on, but he carries a heavy burden and does not know if his burden willbecome heavier in future.
Life goes on,but he carries a heavy burden and does not know if his burden will becomeheavier in future. The only thing he knows is that he has to get over the next hurdleand that stopping is out of the question.
Others carry aheavier burden. They carry their grief for an irreplaceable child.
“I don’t wantto live with what happened on the 22 of July, but I am lucky tohave the opportunity to do so.”
So says Eskil.
It can be saidso simply and with so much pain. And he says it with gratitude.
It iscompletely possible to survive a terrorist attack and live well afterwards. Youcan lose a large number of people that you are close to but live a meaningfullife anyway. You can be vulnerable but still be strong, he tells me.
Perhaps itwould have been simpler for the rest of us if he just cried. Unstoppably.
Even inhell itself some people were lucky.
But he doesn’tdo it. And sometimes that is also used against him.
“My face andmy name will always be linked to what happened out on Utøya, for the rest of mylife. If I set myself a target of that image disappearing then I would bedisappointed every single day.
As fate wouldhave it Eskil can speak about Friday the 22 of July and the timethat followed. He was in the right place at the right time when everything wentwrong. He escaped death by chance. Seconds. Chance.
Even inhell itself some people were lucky.
But Eskil alsohas to carry the burden of being lucky. It should be a joyful burden, but somepeople want him to carry shame and responsibility. Because he jumped into theboat. Because the boat left the jetty. Because he was an adult. Because he madeit to safety.
Because he isalive.
He knows that thesethings are written and said about him. He knows about some of the threats and all the harassment, but he haslearned to live with them.
“These peoplewould also have hated me if I had swum to the shore. I’m quite sure aboutthat,” he says.
You have to bestrong to put up with insinuations about a gruesome responsibility which isexclusively someone else’s.
He has baddays and he cries. Of course. Sometimes he hears a particular song, meetsrelatives, feels the pressure from the media or is spontaneously reminded of afriend who lost his life. But he doesn’t attempt to push it away. He doesn’tregard sorrow as an evil but rather as something important.
“First and foremostI feel great joy that I am alive,” he says.
Eskil Pedersencalled the police from the boat and was told to get himself to safety. Not toturn around. He told the police that there were still hundreds of young peopleleft on Utøya, but the police repeated the message that they had to make it tosafety.
This is whatthe police log says.
But noteveryone wants to hear that.
Some stillbelieve that Eskil ran away. That he abandoned his own. That he panicked whenhe should have stood up as a leader. That he was the captain who sailed offwith the ship. That’s what they write, these faceless communicators offragments of truth dipped in hatred and prejudice. Sediment from the dregs ofsociety, served through blogs and comments fields and text messages. Theyrarely refer to him as Eskil, the youth leader who should be decapitated andfilmed on Utøya, but as a gay, the coward, the traitor.
Theyrarely refer to him as Eskil, the youth leader who should be decapitated andfilmed on Utøya, but as a gay, the coward, the traitor.
It’s difficultto conceive of, but in reality evil has many faces and is worst when they donot have to show themselves.
Eskil Pedersensurvived Utøya but has had to carry a panic alarm since then.
“I cannotallow myself to waste time on these people. Then evil wins, but of course ithurts to know that they are out there,” he admits.
Yesterday hegot to hear the captain talk about the dramatic minutes on board M/S Torbjørn. Therehas been a lot of speculation about what actually happened on the boat. Aboutwho took command, who made decisions? Why didn’t they turn back to Utøya? Didthe other people on the boat refuse to let the captain go back to fetch hisdaughter? Did they come to blows?
Could theyhave done something different?
No, thecaptain concludes.
They fearedfor their lives and they stayed alive.
Must theothers also feel shame about emerging alive from a meeting with unconstrained evil?
Some questionsdo not require answers.
But Eskil givesme one last one anyway, to the direct question about what has hurt most of all.
“Leaving Sundvollenhotel the day after the attack. There was an endless line of cars along theroad. They were all black, the hearses.”