I had other posts planned while I was away, but it felt wrong to post anything after what happened in Paris. Since I'm not sure what to say, I wanted to share my personal experience of this surreal day. My friend and I arrived in Paris on Friday 13th of November, unaware of the horrific attack that would take place that same night.
Paris, Friday 13/11/15
11:13 | I meet my friend in Brussels to take the train to Paris. We planned a little city trip a while ago and are looking forward to a weekend of walking around in beautiful Paris, eating French food at typical brasseries and going out at night just like all young Parisians. At this point we wouldn't even imagine the horror which will unfold that very night.
12:30 | we notice extra security on the Thalys and think back of the possible tragedy that could have happened on August 21st if the gunman hadn't been stopped by those brave passengers. Goosebumps.
14:13 | having arrived in Paris, we go for late lunch with a friend who lives in Paris, find our Airbnb flat in St-Germain-des-Prés and unpack our bags in our Parisian "home" for the weekend. The sun is shining and we're happy.
17:51 | after a spot of shopping in St Germain we think about where we want to go tonight. We want to check our a bar in Le Marais and then go out around the Champs Elysées.
20:02 | back in our flat, music on, snacks and some drinks, the start of a girls night like any other. Our plan is to go to Candelaria in Le Marais but in the end decide to stay in St Germain for a drink because of the distance.
21:36 | we take the stairs down the flat and jokingly say we hope that nothing bad will happen tonight, on friday the 13th. At this point we're completely unaware that shootings and bombings have already been going on for 20 minutes, not far away.
22:40 | we've settled down for some rosé on the terrace at Le Hibou in St Germain. At this point the news reaches my friend, a call from her mom, asking urgently where in Paris we are. The expression on my friend's face immediately changes.. "shootings.. attack.. 18 dead.." We immediately check the news on our phones and know that something's wrong, very wrong. I notice more people on the terrace checking their phones.
22:50 | with a lot of unanswered questions, we decide we need to get home as soon as possible. With every car that passes, we're scared that someone might start shooting. We leave the restaurant and notice that all taxis are taken and Uber is not in use. We decide against taking the metro, not knowing to what extent this attack reaches. We jump on a bus and walk home for 10 minutes, scared of what's happening in Paris. All we hear are sirens and all we see are people on their phones and trying to get home.
23:35 | finally home, we check our phones only to read the unimaginable; shootings and bombings at several locations in Paris, including Le Marais. People have been shot in restaurants, on terraces and hundreds of people are being held hostage in Bataclan. In the meantime, we're receiving several calls and messages from friends and family, asking if we're safe. Although we're safe, I feel everything but.. we stay away from the window and lock our door, with the knowledge that some of the terrorists are still at large. They could be anywhere.
00:31 | after constantly refreshing all news sites, breaking news twitter accounts and Facebook, we're confused with all the different information we're reading. Death tolls ranging from 18 to 200, vagueness about the locations of the shootings (Le Louvre, Les Halles?) and what we are supposed to be doing. All we know is that people all over Paris are advised to stay inside and get off the streets.
01:04 | a Facebook notification asks us to mark if we're safe or not. A good tool to let all our friends know that we are safe and also check who else is in Paris and if they're safe; such a smart initiative from Facebook. At this point I realise how close we actually are, and that even one of my own friends could have been killed.
2:17 | After having read different news sources a hundred times, and realising that this is actually happening in the city of love and light, we decide to get some sleep despite our state of shock and disbelief. We feel sadness, anger and fear. I'm freezing and chills run down my back, unable to believe this is really happening.
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What you read above is only how I personally experienced this day, and I'm sure many others had a similar experience. We were incredibly lucky to not have been involved directly, but sadly that can't be said for everyone. It was incredible to see the immediate reaction on social media, that everyone was sending their positive thoughts to the families and friends involved.
Although I was fully aware of the other attacks happening at the same time, in different parts of the world, it felt surreal to be in Paris during a terrorist attack. You read and see horrible things on the news, happening all over the world, but it's only when it happens so close by - mentally and physically - that you realise how vulnerable you are. Never in my life have I felt this unsafe, and it must be terrible for the people of Paris to not feel safe in their own home, their safe place. To have that taken away from you by a handful of men, within just a few hours, and make you terrified in your own home, is a horrific feeling. Let's also not forget that the fear we felt is only a fraction of the fear felt by all those people who have fled their homes. This has been their reality for a long time.
But in the end, that's what those men are trying to create; fear and panic. It's something we shouldn't give in to, that's why we felt that it would be wrong to stay inside the whole weekend. If we let fear take over, they win. So we decided to continue our weekend with positivity, good food, long walks and appreciating the beauty of Paris. Thalys was really accomodating and let everyone take earlier trains home. A few hours before our initial train, we headed home. Never had I wanted to be home so bad, longing for the feeling of safety.
No one knows what will happen next. All I know is we shouldn't stop living our lives. We shouldn't give in to fear and terror, no matter how much attacks like these affect us.