'I am still alive,' Oslo girl texted to her mom

OSLO, Norway — Marianne Bremnes' nightmare began with a phone call on a summer Friday afternoon.

It was her 16-year-old daughter Julie, attending a youth camp for members of the Labour Party on the idyllic Norwegian island of Utoya. A crazy man was shooting. People were dying.

Bremnes' agony was made worse by the fact that she was more than 800 miles away, at home in Harstad, northern Norway. She couldn't reach her daughter, couldn't rescue her, couldn't even talk to her — it was too dangerous to stay on the phone.

As Julie hid from the gunman among some rocks on the seashore, her mother asked her to text an update — "a sign of life" — every five minutes.

And Julie did. For almost an hour and a half, as far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik stalked the island, mortally wounding at least 68 people, mother and daughter exchanged news, words of comfort and potentially lifesaving information.

Julie's first text came at 5:42 p.m.: Mum, tell the police to hurry. People are dying here!

Bremnes, 46, tried to reassure her: The police are on their way.

Julie's texts were urgent: Tell the police that a madman is running around shooting people. ... They have to hurry!

Stay under cover, don't move to another place! Bremnes texted. The police are already on their way, if they have not already arrived.

The minutes crawled by, filled with agonizing peaks and troughs of hope and horror.

There was a heart-stopping moment, at 6:15, when Julie texted: The police are here.

Her mother immediately warned her: The person shooting apparently wears a police uniform. Be careful!

Julie stayed in her hiding place. At 6:30 she texted: He's still shooting.

At one point, the teenager heard a helicopter. Thinking help was on its way, she emerged from her hiding place, waving her pink rain jacket to attract attention. It wasn't the police, but a news crew, who filmed Breivik surrounded by bodies piled up on the shore and in the water.

Throughout the ordeal, Julie kept her promise: a "sign of life" every five minutes. Some of her messages were basic: I am still alive.

"I heard from her every five minutes — she did what I told her to do," Bremnes said. "The whole time I knew how she was and where she was. It helped me and I guess it helped her."

Mother and daughter even had time to say I love you.

I love you, even though I may yell at you sometimes, Julie messaged. She added: And I am not panicking, even though I'm s——— scared.

At 7:01 p.m., Julie asked her mother for information: What were they saying on the news?

The police are also on a boat to Utoya, otherwise nothing new, Bremnes replied. It is not clear what happened to the gunman, so you stay still. Wait for someone to pick you up.

Soon after, she was able to send Julie the news they had been waiting for: Now they've got him!

It was not until later still that Julie called: She was on a rescue boat. She was safe.

"And she cried," Bremnes said. "I cried and she cried."

Julie lost five friends in the shooting. Bremnes said her daughter is holding up well — but she worries about the future.

'I am still alive,' Oslo girl texted to her mom 07/27/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:00pm]

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