Terror in Paris - The day after

A youngster draped in the French tricolor flag posted a poem. Others just stood there in silence, paying tribute to Friday’s victims.

Scene of Paris attack
PARIS – The city of lights woke up a different place on Saturday morning. Paris, usually bustling with tourists and weekend shoppers, was almost empty. Few people were out in the streets; children were for the most part kept at home. Many shops and restaurants chose to keep their doors shut, especially the ones in the 11th and 12th arrondissements – where last night’s events unfolded.
Several metro stations were closed, with police opening them little by little toward noon. All schools and public spaces, such as swimming pools, municipal gymnasiums and also the main department stores in Paris and the region were also closed. A noticeable general feeling of panic, of being under attack, reigned in the streets. The announcement by the Paris Municipality about the Eiffel Tower not opening for visits well reflected these sentiments.
But there were also those who did go out; heading to the Place de la Republique, near the Bataclan hall. Some laid white roses by the statue at the center of the square.
A youngster draped in the French tricolor flag posted a poem. Others just stood there in silence, paying tribute to Friday’s victims.
Jeannette, a young woman in her 20s, told me that she often comes to this area on Friday evenings. “Last night I was just too tired. I told my pals that I’m staying at home. Today, I am here to mourn those who went out for some Friday evening fun and never came back.”
Journalists from around the world were still gathered today near the Bataclan hall on Rue Voltaire, waiting to see if the police come up with any new evidence. The police have sealed the avenue; police vehicles block access, allowing investigators to continue collecting evidence of the shootings. Residents on their way to the few nearby shops that are open were escorted in and out of the sealed zones by police officers.
Imene Ahmed, 21, a political science student, is still shocked by what happened Friday night.
“We live just nearby. I went out with my mother just to have a drink, when we started hearing shootings. My mother thought it was just kids playing with some firecrackers, but I quickly realized that a terrorist attack was taking place. We went into the café and closed the doors behind us. We kept hearing machine gun fire for a long time. Then police cars coming. Once the police entered the hall, people started streaming out of it. They came to the café and we tried to help them.”
Ahmed recounts that the people running out of the Bataclan hall were wounded and distraught.
“Some were bleeding, one lost his shirt. One of them told us that at first they thought that the gunfire noises were part of the loud music, but then people started falling down. It was a panic. Everyone started running up and down, trying to get out through emergency exits or through the roof. He himself hid behind a dead person on the floor.”
Ahmed told The Jerusalem Post that she and those who took shelter at the café tried to help the wounded, to talk to them and calm them down until help arrived, helping them to get cleaned and offering them warm drinks.
“The shooting at Charlie Hebdo [last January] took place just a few minutes from here, and now this. We cannot take any more of that. Nevertheless, I love my neighborhood and won’t consider moving away from here,” she says.
Paco, a Frenchman of Moroccan origin, lives just off the Rue de Charonne, where the shooting series started, before the terrorists entered the Bataclan hall.
“We spent the evening at a neighborhood restaurant. We did not hear the noise, but when we decided to go home the streets were blocked. The whole neighborhood was suddenly blocked.’’ He fears that these events will alter the French social fabric. “I live in France many years, but I fear that French-born people will start looking at us immigrants differently. Especially immigrants from North African countries.”
Another local resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, adds that, “It’s the psychology of fear. These people manage to sow terror among us; they are trying to turn us each against the other.”
A recurrent feeling among Parisians I spoke to is that France is now paying the price of its long years of fighting terrorism.
Not just French military efforts in Syria and Iraq against Islamic State, but also the fact that France spearheaded the battle in Mali against extremist Islam.
Many compared one possible effect of Friday’s attacks to that of the Madrid train bombing in 2004, a short while before elections there, which subsequently led to the withdrawal of the Spanish government from the international coalition in Iraq.