Terror in Paris

Terror in Paris

Grace Doerfler '18, News Editor

The evening of November 13, 2015 began as a peaceful Friday night in Paris, France. Citizens were abuzz about the friendly soccer match between the French and German teams. Couples headed out for dinner and concerts, enjoying an evening in the City of Light. However, as darkness fell, Paris was struck by an unexpected tragedy for the second time in less than a year. At six sites across France’s capital, organized terror attacks left 130 dead, scores injured, and people across the world shocked and deeply saddened.

The Attacks

Terrorists targeted half a dozen locations in central Paris, including the Stade de France, the site of the France-Germany soccer match; several restaurants and bars, including La Belle Équipe, Le Carillon, Le Petit Cambodge, and Café Bonne Bière; and the Bataclan concert hall, where the American rock group Eagles of Death Metal was performing.

At the Stade de France, three suicide bombers appeared to have planned an attack on the stadium, but were prevented from entering the game by officials. Security detected the bombers’ concealed explosives, and the attackers blew themselves up outside the stadium. One civilian was killed. French president François Hollande, among those present to spectate the match, was escorted to safety soon after blasts were heard. President Hollande declared a state of emergency in France that very evening.

Several restaurants and bars fell victim to attacks on the 13th. Five minutes after the explosions at the Stade de France, gunfire erupted from a black vehicle outside Le Carillon and the Cambodian restaurant, Le Petit Cambodge. Fifteen people lost their lives, and at least ten more were seriously injured. Just a few minutes later, gunmen opened fire at the Café Bonne Bière, killing five and severely wounding eight; only four minutes after that attack, nineteen were murdered and nine critically injured at La Belle Équipe, a popular bistro.

Nightmarish scenes unfolded simultaneously at various restaurants and inside the Bataclan, a concert hall where Eagles of Death Metal were playing a sold-out performance. Three men entered the Bataclan at about 9:40 PM carrying assault rifles. They burst into the ballroom and spread out around the dark concert hall, firing into the crowd and throwing grenades. Chaos ensued: the band members fled; those in the audience attempted to escape the hall or hide from the gunmen. The attackers held the survivors hostage as police officers surrounded the concert hall. When the police raided the Bataclan, all three attackers died. More than eighty people were killed at the concert hall.

The World Reacts

In the days following the tragedies, grieving Parisians piled flowers at the sites of attacks, creating memorials to those killed. Public places were mostly closed on Saturday, November 14, including schools, museums, and tourist hotspots like the Eiffel Tower. Despite authorities’ recommendation that people stay indoors if possible, many citizens attended vigils for terror victims and left bouquets of flowers at shrines. The Eiffel Tower remained darkened for several days, symbolizing the mourning around the world.

People expressed solidarity with France globally. French flags were flown at half-mast. Pittsburgh’s own Cathedral of Learning projected the French flag on the outside of its upper stories. On social media, one of the most widely shared images representing empathy with the French shows a simple peace sign formed around the Eiffel Tower.

In France, serious developments continued. Following the Islamic State’s announcement claiming responsibility for the terrorism in Paris, President François Hollande declared war against ISIS. Since then, French military forces have bombed Raqqa, a Syrian city controlled by ISIS. President Hollande is trying to unite other world leaders in his cause.

One of the most pressing questions following the terror attacks on Paris concerned Syrian refugees — the exodus of whom had fueled an ongoing debate even before the events of November 13th. These refugees are fleeing Syria in hopes of avoiding the same sort of bloodshed that struck Paris; however, some leaders have voiced concerns that some of the migrants might be jihadis. Since the violence in Paris, the fates of these refugees hang even more precipitously in the balance.

       

The terror attacks in Paris, while they have darkened the city with tragedy, have not broken France’s spirit. As the French recover from the trauma they suffered on November 13, they have united in solidarity. In Paris, citizens remember, but life goes on. In late November, Paris hosted, as planned, a conference to discuss efforts to circumvent climate change. This endeavor to bring about positive global change is surely a flame of hope being rekindled in the City of Light.