The Ghastly Coda Cell Phones Added to the Breivik Massacre

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In the August issue of GQ, Sean Flynn has a feature on the Anders Behring Breivik massacre in Norway, in which Breivik killed 77 people, most of them in a shooting rampage on a small island.

Flynn describes meeting a police officer, Håkon Hval, who helped deal with the immediate aftermath of the violence. He concludes with a horrifically modern detail: the unanswered ringing of the phones of the dead and escaped.

When the sun went down, Håkon was in a boat not far from shore. Divers were in the lake, searching the depths for bodies that might have been drowned, and Håkon was providing security. It was very quiet. Håkon could hear waves licking at the sides of the boat, and then, from the island, he could hear something else: a chorus of chirping and buzzing and snippets of pop songs. In the darkness, he saw tiny lights flickering on, then off, then on again, like fireflies. There were hundreds of them, scattered along the Lovers' Trail and on the lawn below the cafeteria and in the tent field and where the bodies lay. Mobile phones lighting and ringing and nobody answering.

"There was nothing you could do," Håkon said. "You just had to wait until they ran out of electricity."

It is, as Matt Pearce pointed out, an almost unbelievably haunting end to an already haunting story.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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