UTVIKA, Norway — Survivors of a massacre that claimed the lives of 69 people in Norway last month carried flowers to the site of the killings Saturday, laughter blending with tears as they remembered the joys of an island youth camp that turned into a scene of horror.
After returning from Utoya island, which he visited with survivors, Norway's police chief, Jon Staale Stamnes, said the island was "filled with flowers, candles, pictures, poems."
Staale Stamnes told reporters that the survivors had "very different" reactions. "Some had — of course — traumatic experiences, and it's clear to us that it's a really tough time for them," he said. "But also there's laughter, there's good stories, so there's a total mix and blend of emotions today."
Many lit candles and laid handwritten notes in memory of their friends at the sites where they were shot during the summer camp organized by the youth wing of Norway's Labor Party.
Eskil Pedersen, the leader of the party's youth organization, said his visit to the island with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and several hundred youth politicians had been "heavy, but fine."
"It was incredibly good to see them (the survivors) smiling again on Utoya," Pedersen told reporters.
Up to 1,000 survivors and relatives were expected on Utoya, accompanied by police and medical staff, to face the painful memories of the mass shooting by a right-wing extremist. News media were not allowed access to the heavily guarded island.
Stoltenberg, the leader of the Labor Party, said he had wanted to visit Utoya "to take part in their mourning and be there for them."
Anders Behring Breivik has admitted killing 77 people on July 22 when he first detonated a truck bomb outside government offices in the capital, Oslo, and then went on a meticulously planned shooting spree on the island, about 25 miles away.
Breivik denies criminal guilt, saying he believes the massacre was necessary to save Norway and Europe. He has said the attacks were an attempt at cultural revolution, aimed at purging Europe of Muslims and punishing politicians who have embraced multiculturalism.
Norway's General Director of Health Bjoern Inge Larsen said he hoped the visits would help survivors and families of the victims come to grips with the deaths.
"The people going there today … have a lot of anxiety," Larsen said.