A personal witnesses from Paris



It’s 9.20 PM in Paris. There’ s a birthday party in the 13th arrondissement, south-west of Paris. At the same exact time, still in Paris, a masked gunman fires numerous gusts agains “Le Carillon” bar and against the “Petit Cambodge” restaurant, in the 12th arrondissiment, in the northern part of the city. It is Friday night and bars and discos are crowded with young people having fun, unaware of what is happening outside.

Shortly after this episode, a second shooting is perpetuated in a McDonald’s near to the Canal Saint Martin. Meanwhile, in the same neighbourhood, two gunmen open fire against the bar « La Belle Epoque ». In the 13th arrondissement the birthday celebrations are still going and at 10.30 PM the cake is cut. At the Saint Denis stadium France is playing a friendly match against Germany. It is 9.15 PM when the audience of the match hears an explosion, thinking it might be a firecracker. A second explosion follows some minutes afterwards. It’s not a firecracker, it’s two terrorist attacks. This time President Holland is evacuated from the stadium. The match, however, continues and the audience is not alerted. After 10 PM people start receiving strange messages from friends and family « ça va ? » « Is everything ok ? Are you home ? ». Curious because of these messages people start checking breaking news and get to know about the attacks to the bars in the 10th and 11th arrondissement. Someone says the victims are 18, AFP counts 30 victims and Libérations talks at first about 40 and then about 60 victims.

Paris is under attack.

Panic starts spreading all over the city. In an urgent message to the citizens Holland declares the emergency status all over France. Shock has an impact on everybody and turns off the party. There are rumours about a shooting in the city centre, at Les Halles. From 11PM everyone starts checking on their friends and family conditions, in an act of mechanically texting all the people in a person’s phone book. Many post a status on Facebook to reassure their beloved ones. Some people decide to keep on drinking and try to dance. At 11 PM the Bataclan theatre is attacked. The situation is confused. A number of armed men – from 3 to 6 – hold 60 people hostage. At 1 AM the police forces intervene and 2 of the presumed terrorists are killed. The victims are now considered to be 120. The municipality invites everyone to stay home and avoid wandering in the streets.

Around midnight in the areas located southern than the Seine the situation is calm. Crews of young people chat smoking a cigarette, couples smile and tell each other sweet words after dinner in a nice restaurant. Five metro lines are interrupted for security reasons. The streets start to get blocked by taxis. Many people want to head back home and feel safer in a taxi. In the Latino area many clubs close earlier, other remain opened as if nothing happened. For some people the party goes on. In the Sorbonne neighbourhood there’s a coming and going of taxis and girls and boys enjoying their Friday night, as always.

Notre Dame, not far away from the Prefecture, is monitored by riot control agents and by the army. The sound of the sirens is loud. Dozens and dozens of ambulances escorted by police motorcycles transport victims and wounded to the different hospitals of the city. It is 1 AM, the people in the streets is very few, but the lights in the apartments are all on. Everyone stands in front of the telephone and the TV. Once crossed the Seine, from Les Halles on the presence of the police is high. Some streets are totally blocked.

Some tourists are lost and do not understand what is going on. They walk around a surreal city crossed by a huge number of ambulances and truckloads. Around 2 AM the situations is going back to normality, people start going back home, they try to understand, they keep vigil. Meanwhile, the migrant camp in Calais is put to fire and sword. The pictures arriving from the French port where thousands of migrants hoping to reach the UK live, are apocalyptic. Fire is burning the huts and the tents of thousands of desperate people fleeing. Some people say the action was perpetuated by a xenophobic group as a response to the attacks in Paris.

Some blame the Muslims, the displaced people and the migrants for the terrorist attacks. But it is exactly for the brutality of these people driven by hate that the majority of these people flee their countries and reach Europe. The world starts to mourn with Paris and with the French people in a race for solidarity. A thought, however, reaches also the 43 victims of the terrorist attack of Thursday in Beirut, Lebanon.

Now it is time to react.

Marino Ficco – Responsable Libera France