Two young women mourn during a memorial for the victims of Norway's twin attacks last month
Hundreds of survivors made a difficult, first return Saturday to the tiny Norwegian island where 69 of their friends were gunned down in cold blood by a rightwing extremist four weeks before, reports AFP.
Though police had cleaned up signs of the July 22 bloodbath on Utoeya island, it was still fresh for many of the young escapees braving the visit in hopes of finding some closure to an ordeal that deeply shocked the entire nation.
"I know this is going to be a very difficult day to live through but I also know this is necessary to lighten my burden in the future," said Adrian Pracon, 21, who was wounded in the shoulder by one of Anders Behring Breivik's bullets.
In a Twitter post Saturday morning, he said: "This is going to be the second worst day of my life."
Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg joined the survivors on the island some 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Oslo, where Behring Breivik attacked a summer camp for members of the youth wing of his ruling Labour Party.
Norwegian security services, who organised the trip, said 750 people -- survivors and their loved ones -- returned to heart-shaped Utoeya, the day after 500 relatives of the dead made a similar pilgrimage.
The shooting spree was the second of twin attacks by 32-year-old Behring Breivik, who decried Islam and multiculturalism and fancied himself a "crusader".
Earlier that day he had set off a car bomb outside government offices in Oslo that claimed eight lives, as a distraction while he ran amok on Utoeya.
"I need to see the island to move on," Pracon said by telephone from the bus heading to Utoeya. "And it's also very important to be with my friends."
The young man crossed paths twice with Breivik, who wore a police uniform to fool the camp members and carried a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol. Saying he was there to inform them about the Oslo bombing, he opened fire on the crowd he had attracted, tracking like prey those who fled and coldly finishing off the wounded in the hour-long ordeal, witnesses said.
Pracon had thrown himself into the water fully dressed but turned back, realising he could not make it to the mainland.
"When I got back to the bank, he was there, five or 10 metres (yards) from me, firing on others trying to swim away. He turned around and pointed his gun at me," he said.
"I was exhausted; all I managed to say was 'don't shoot'. He seemed to stop and think for a moment then he left," Pracon said.
His second encounter came a few minutes later, near where several other young people had gathered.
"I laid down and played dead. He shot at me to make sure I was indeed dead. I think he aimed at my head but he missed me and I was hit in the shoulder," he recalled.
Emma Martinovic, 18, who escaped the carnage by swimming away, also made the journey.
"This is something I'm really scared about. It's going to be very difficult to return," she told the television station TV2.
"I wanted to return to Utoeya so I could remember it other than what happened on July 22, when it was just nothing but screams, panic, suffering," Per Anders Langeroed, who hid among rocks then threw himself into the sea, told NRK radio afterwards.