On Friday, a gunman took the lives of 86 people on Norway’s Utoya Island. It’s an unspeakable tragedy—yet the damage may have been far worse if not for the heroic acts of Marcel Gleffe, a German tourist who was camping on the mainland nearby when the shots began to ring out.
At first, he thought the sounds might have been fireworks—but when he saw the plumes of smoke from the gunfire, he knew that the situation was deadly. Even so, he didn’t hesitate to get involved.
Gleffe raced his motorboat over to the island, where he found a group of people in the water. Some of them had already been shot, and were in serious condition. He threw out life jackets, and helped as many of them as possible climb into his boat to return to the mainland, taking those with the worst injuries first.
Police hadn’t responded yet, so Gleffe was the first rescuer on the scene. He made four or five trips before the police arrived and told him they no longer required assistance.
Gleffe knew that the gunman was still roaming the island when he made his rescue missions, but he was prepared to risk his own life to save as many people as he could. Altogether, he rescued 30 people.
“I just did it on instinct,” he told the Telegraph. “You don’t get scared in a situation like that, you just do what it takes. I know the difference between fireworks and gunfire. I knew what it was about, and that it wasn’t just nonsense.”