Paris, France – During and after the terrorist attacks.
13-16 of November 2015
This is a personal account of my own experience in the wake of the Paris Terrorist Attacks that took place on 13 November 2015 and the days following. I am a photojournalist currently living in Paris, Montmartre the 18th arrondissement, for a few months and am originally from the United States in Seattle, Washington. I had been living in Paris less than 6 weeks when the attacks occurred. A few days after the attacks it was also confirmed that a car rented by one of the terrorists was found parked a few blocks from where I’m living. Officials believe plans were aborted to also stage an attack in the 18th arrondissement. Any informational mistakes are mine alone.
On any given day in Paris the city is bustling with people. On their way to work, going into and out of the train stations, some selling goods on the streets, others saying Bonjour to you as you pass by. But sadly Saturday 14 November 2015 was a day of mourning. Throughout a majority of the city almost no one is out this day and the streets lay quiet. This afternoon my friend and also a photographer, Adrian Funk and I went to the 11th and 10th arrondissements to see and photograph the aftermath of the prior nights terrorist attacks. Police had the areas barricaded, media was present and a handful of others were expressing bewilderment, taking photographs and leaving memorials of candles and flowers.
Shopkeepers and restaurant owners alike all throughout Paris have their storefronts closed up. Only a deep and overwhelming fear could push these lively people into the safety of their homes, to dwell on what had happened the night prior. And to dwell on the notion that not one of us knew what today would bring. Usually as Saturday turns into evening in Paris it brings abundant and lively energy to every café and boulevard across the city. But this evening there was no laughter. There was no plume of cigarette smoke wafting away from little café tables usually filled with people talking and laughing and drinking and smoking. The weather had been cool all day, the tube held almost no passengers and the streets are dry and silent into the night. The beautiful external lights were no lit like usual around the Sacré Coeur Cathedral just 200 meters to the left of my flat in Montmartre, the 18th arrondissement of Paris. A silent yet laconic essence that portrays the mournful hearts of those who abide here hangs heavy in the air.
Less than twenty four hours ago terror forced it’s way through the city. Men with absolute hatred in their heart, in united force began to take the lives of innocent people using machine guns and suicide vests. As word of the terrorist attacks quickly spread through social media, people quickly started vacating the streets. Over a number of areas, some close and some far from the city centre, terrorists laid claim to the lives of at least 129 people while injuring upwards of 380 more. Lives were ended during brief and brutal moments of invasion. Swift, abrupt, relentless, merciless. Men and women were executed, point blank, for no other reason than to prove a point. Fear and blood were used to cause awe, shock and terror from the twisted beliefs of just a few.
Sunday morning brought with it blue sky and the sun. It felt like a kiss from heaven after the sheer terror and confusion of the last 36 hours. Though the people of the city still did not come out. The few on the streets were mostly visiting from anywhere else, including myself. This isn’t our home that was just fired upon. It’s easier to walk down the street when you know every one of your tomorrows won’t be a reminder of the death that knocked at your door. Senseless and astounding, it’s difficult to grasp the why. Why did it have to happen this way? Why did they have to kill and injure so many? Why did they have a belief that was so strong that death seemed to be a way to prove it? Why?
As Monday came and the people of Paris had no choice but to come out from behind their shaded windows and warm, safe homes to make their way to work with sullen hearts and yet a knowing that life had to continue to move forward even if their hearts yet had not. Aside from the media, no one talks about it yet. The shock has not worn off. The confusion has not yet rendered itself. Acceptance is not yet a part of reality. My guess is that sadness will slowly begin to turn into rage. Love for a city and a country will cause some individuals to stand up and fight. War in many ways and on many levels is inevitable. It could be the war of retaliation. French bombs on Syria. War of race and religion. It could also be an individual war, a resistance of fear. A fierce determination to not let the enemy win, to not let them take away our freedom to live our lives without fear. A strong desire to freely walk down the street, to meet up with loved ones, to enjoy time out again. A desire to feel human without a sodden grip of terror.
It’s Monday evening now. The sky has finally allowed itself to shed tears over Paris. The dark night and delicate rain are showing their solemn allegiance. Broken hearts, crushed dreams, devastated families and a heartbroken city, all for naught.
And yet, some Parisians are determined not to waste hatred on terrorism!