The Eiffel Tower is seen at sunset in Paris.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the chaos of the explosion at the Comptoir Voltaire cafe, Parisian nurse David immediately sought to help the wounded.
Among them was a man lying amid overturned chairs and tables on the terrace. David lay him down. The man did not have major injuries but he was unconscious, so David began CPR.
"I go to this man that I could see out of the corner of my eye. I take him out of this tangle of chairs, tables, and I put him on the floor. He had nothing special, he was just unconscious. He was unconscious, he had nothing special, but I noticed that on the side of his body there was an enormous hole. A large hole on his side. But there, again, I don't think at all that it is a suicide bomber. At that moment, for me it's a client like others who suffered from a gas blast and who must have hurt himself on something. But his wound was huge," said the 46-year-old who lives near the cafe.
When he tore open the man's T-shirt, what David saw made him soon realize that what he initially thought was a gas explosion was something far worse.
"On the ground there was blood and I noticed the first bolts on the ground. Then I understood immediately. I told myself, 'it's an explosion (that made the wound in his side), it's a suicide bomber' and I knew it was him. And at that precise moment when I realized what he was, the emergency services arrived," said David.
The man David was trying to resuscitate was Brahim Abdeslam, one of the perpetrators of the Paris assaults that killed 130 people when attackers opened fire or detonated bombs at bars, restaurants, a soccer stadium and a music hall.
In a video obtained by Reuters, two men can be seen from the outside of the cafe trying to resuscitate a man laying on the floor. One is believed to be David, the other is unknown.
Around them, another person lies wounded on the floor and blood is on the ground. Chairs and tables are overturned.
The minute he realized the person he was trying to save had just seconds ago tried to kill him, David says the fire services arrived. Among them was a fireman that he knew, and he told him what he had just seen.
"It was when I told to the fireman that had recognized me: "This man has lots of wires on him", he screamed, he said: "Everyone get away, we evacuate everyone. And then we all went outside," said the nurse.
David and others were moved to a nearby courtyard and in strangers' homes learned about the carnage mounting across the French capital.
David, who asked to be called just by his first name, lives in the neighborhood. He knows the Comptoir Voltaire well.
The 46-year-old, who works at a Paris hospital, had been having dinner with a friend that night. When the waitress brought their dishes, the explosion happened.
He first helped a woman, getting her into a safe position and then a young man lying on a table, conscious but bleeding heavily. A helper took over and David went to Abdeslam.
David says he did not see Abdeslam walk in. He believes he was sitting at the terrace when he detonated the bomb.
David said that by the time he left the cafe, he suspected Abdeslam, whose brother Salah is still wanted in relation to the attacks, was dead.
He said he himself was lucky to be alive.
"I am told (the next day), that yes, he was the suicide bomber, he did blow himself up. He told me I was very lucky as they said on TV that his bomb did not explode like it should have done. Otherwise he would have caused much more damage. It was Sunday afternoon that I realized that by putting him on the ground, by performing CPR - I performed some pretty rough actions - I could have got killed too. Completely. I think about it, I still think about it," said David.
Abdeslam, a French national living in Belgium, only killed himself. But several people were wounded in the attack.
As for David, he has passed the Comptoir Voltaire, where bouquets lie outside, many times this past week. But after last Friday's experience, he says he does not feel strong enough to go into any cafes or restaurants.
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