I Survived a Mass Shooting

day2 terror

Posted on Nov 10

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Bjørn Ihler
technologist and activist


Ihler survived the 2011 terror attack in Norway. Now he is one of ten campaigners behind counter-extremism initiative Extremely Together.


Bjørn Ihler was at the Norwegian Labour party’s annual youth camp on Utøya island when news broke of a terrorist attack in nearby Oslo. The first sign of trouble was a popping noise from the direction of the dock. Then a man wearing police uniform and a dark bulletproof vest walked over the hill towards the camp. It was Anders Breivik, who had sailed from Oslo by ferry. Breivik raised his rifle and shot a group of children down. Over the next hour he killed 69 and injured more than 300.
On the day of Breivik’s attack, Mr Ihler ran from the killer into the lake. His thick woollen jumper dragged him down and he began to sink. Desperately tugging the garment over his head, he risked a glance back at the island. There he saw Breivik: calm, focused, a man at work. Their eyes met and Breivik took aim. The bullet missed by centimetres.
The experience of having escaped death by a few centimetres and such horrifying terror has served as a motivation for Bjørn Ihler to now work as a counter-extremist. His aim is to reach into spaces where there are people who react to fear with hate and violence and present them an alternative way of viewing the world. Breaking into echo chambers, speaking to people as people and opening them up to a diversity of ideas.

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