Paris: Today we cry, tomorrow we live



Audrey Bretaud-Kelle,

Friday, 13th of November 2015, was a turning point in the history of terrorism in France and Europe. Only 10 months after the cruelty of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, ISIS attacked Paris again that night with extreme violence, in several places but with the same mission: generate fear, create terror and kill not only as many people as they could, but also the strong life-values that France embodies.

Paris, Mon Amour

I am an exchange student from France here at Cal State East Bay and on Friday night, I watched with tremendous horror on television as my home, Paris, was attacked. I sent messages to all my close ones to make sure they were safe or simply to hear their voice, I watched the news unable to speak nor cry. In this moment, several feelings hit me: sadness and fear at first, but quickly joined by anger, incomprehension, disgust and of course, a powerful desire to not let them win this war.[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]On Friday, the world watched with horror as my beautiful Paris became a city filled with terror, tears and deaths.[/mks_pullquote]

Paris is the city of freedom. Where you get to be who you want to be. This is the city where you have a glass of wine or a beer on the terrace of a café after work and then at the same café you can enjoy a pain au chocolat or a croissant and a coffee in the morning. The city where everyone is always in a hurry and bad mood, but everyone will stop to admire the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower at night and smile. This is a place where you feel free to kiss someone you just met on the cheeks to say “Hi” and wear a mini-skirt when it is, almost, colder than Canada. A place where you laugh and you enjoy music from the street, the subway stations, the free piano from the train stations or from a concert hall. Paris is the city where you are free to be different — where you can be forever young.

On Friday, the world watched with horror as my beautiful Paris became a city filled with terror, tears and deaths.

Paris in Horror

A Friday night in Paris is a night of enjoying life, drinking, and celebrating for whatever reason. Last Friday, people were celebrating the friendly soccer game between France and Germany in the Stade De France, two miles north of Paris.

This is where it began, around 9:20 p.m., a bomb exploded outside the stadium. The attacker carried the bomb on his belt then blew himself up, killing one civilian in the way. A few minutes later, a second bomb exploded near the location of the first. No casualties this time but the MO was the same: a suicide bombing. Inside the stadium, the game was still playing and no one knew what was going on outside. Everyone, French and Germans, were enjoying the game rooting for their national teams. They heard the explosions, but assumed they were probably just some fireworks to cheer on the teams. The French President, François Hollande, was immediately evacuated from the stadium discretely. And for good reason: outside the walls of the Stade de France, war was already on its way.

At 9:25 p.m., shooters arrived at the terrace of a restaurant in the 10th arrondissement of the capital in a black car and immediately started shooting at the terrace of “Le petit Cambodge.” Fifteen people died. At 9:32 p.m., another terrace, another restaurant, another massacre. Five people were found dead at “A la bonne Bière.” At 9:36 p.m., a third restaurant, “La Belle Equipe,” in the 11th arrondissement: several shooters fired more than a hundred bullets, killing at least nineteen people, some of them still as of today, between life and death. At 9:43 p.m., same arrondissement, different restaurant, a terrorist blew himself up. There were no casualties. At 9:51 p.m. in a McDonald’s near the Stade De France, a fourth suicide bomber blew himself up, fortunately killing only himself in the process.

And then, 9:53 p.m., the Bataclan — a concert hall where the California band Eagles of Death Metal were playing for more than a thousand people — the unspeakable happened. At least three terrorists entered and started killing people, executing them one by one. The crowd screamed, hid, ran, fell and died. From this time until 12:20 a.m., people were held hostage. The Bataclan was a room filled with blood, dead bodies and hostages everywhere.

“[It was] a pool of blood,” said Cecile in an interview with Le, whose last name was redacted to protect her privacy. “I had other people blood’s on me, flesh in my hair.”

Outside the Bataclan, neighbors heard screaming and shooting, the sound of a city being held in terror. They heard the sound of Paris being attacked by ISIS.

In the Bataclan, at least 89 people would die, some of them still fighting for life as these lines are being printed. The RAID, equivalent of SWAT, entered the concert hall at 12:20 a.m. and evacuated the room and places where people hid: lodges, restrooms, the roof, under dead bodies.


“We had to play dead in order to live,” said survivor Anthony to Le “They were executing us without mercy, without masks.”

Two of the three terrorists blew themselves up and the third one was killed by RAID. Among the eight terrorists attackers claimed by ISIS.  According to the Paris prosecutor’s office, the ringleader of the operation was killed Wednesday night. According to officials in charge of the investigation in Paris, more terrorists could have been involved. In fact, an international wanted notice has been released for the Abdeslam brothers, Brahim and Salah, police officials said. As ISIS claims the second terrorist attack on Paris, only 10 months after Charlie Hebdo, France mourns as authorities confirm 129 deaths and hundreds of injured.

Never on our knees

While Paris is the center of a massive attack against the people of France, those same people have become more unified than ever. On Twitter, Parisians opened their doors with #PorteOuverte to people unable to go home as the public transportation system was shutting down.

Jane Roussel, 22 years old, shared her address on Twitter to rescue and host people in need. “I put a lot of messages on Twitter but no one turned out to need it, I stayed with friends all night long at my place,” Roussel said.

So many messages were being sent to help and rescue and 9,000 people donated their blood on Friday night and Saturday. France is staying united under these tough times and always will be. As far as I am from my home, I am with them still and I know French people all over the world are as well. Not only French people; the world is with Paris.

ISIS targeted youth in Paris that night, but we are still here. Those 129 people are still here. Charlie is still here. Cabu, the emblematic drawer who died in January in the Charlie Hebdo attack, said “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” Never, ever we will be put down and stay on our knees.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.[/mks_pullquote]

“I am gonna go home and tell the people I love that I love them and hug them. And I love you too Audrey and I miss you,” said Louise Guibert, one of my closest friends who lives in Paris. Because love is what we have — something that they, ISIS, does not and will never have. This so called religion is nothing but hate, this is not religion.

France is already fighting back, bombing ISIS camp bases in Syria. Is that a solution? Fight violence with violence? I have no idea what will work on them because they are so far away from the definition of human beings. I will let those in charge decide this for us and pray their solution will be the one that eradicates this hate, this violence from the free world.

Today we cry, tomorrow we live

My heart is broken, I felt sick as I watched the number of deaths increase on Friday night. I know what France embodies; I know what Paris stands for. I want to fight for that: fight for happiness, for love, for freedom. Of course we are afraid, we will be for a while. But let us not yield to this, let us keep living our life and enjoy it with a glass of wine or a macaroon.

Fear should push us forward and not backward, let us not be paralyzed by fear. Let hope, love, strength and bravery help us move forward. Let one single voice scream that France is not afraid.

Terrorism is not an act that solely affects Paris. Terrorism regards every soul who wants to fight against injustice and violence, every soul who wants to be free, everyone who wants peace. Terrorism is everyone’s business. They can look us in the eye while they are trying to put us down. What will they see? Union, fierce, strength, determination of the free world to eradicate them and their violence. And above all, love. Make them understand that this light in our eyes will never go away.

To all the Charlies in the world, all the free spirits, to the people of France whom I proudly stand amongst, to all the Parisians: I implore you, keep living. We will not let them take more lives.

We will not let them keep us from enjoying life. Today we cry, but tomorrow we live.