After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, we talked to Greeks who live there, and they described how they experienced the dramatic events and what the day after feels like.
“I was at the 10th arrondissement, in Saint Martin canal, drinking beers together with my friends, like we do every Friday. We suddenly heard bangs that sounded like shots, coming out of nowhere. We all got up and saw people running in panic towards the shops. Everybody was running to hide, it was terrible. We didn’t know what had happened. My mother calls me from Greece and tells me about the events. She says they are taking place in Les Halles area at the centre. The waiter rushes to close the shop and asks us to leave. We leave in a haste, with a real pandaemonium in the streets. People running in all directions, ambulance sirens, police cars. I live in Belleville and I couldn’t reach my home. We find out a café in Rue Bichat has been hit, a little further up. We started running to a café that was lowering its shutters, seeking shelter. We stayed there until 2 am. There was a total havoc outside; screams, sirens, it was like living in a horror movie.
I got home a 5 am, on foot. Next day, people stayed inside and everybody was discussing the events. How can we live like that now? How can we use the metro to go to work or at the university? Supposedly we changed countries for the best and we found the worst.”
“On Friday night I was with my friends, who had just arrived from Milan to attend the U2 concert in Paris. We were at a patio in a café in Odeon area. At around eleven, our phones caught fire. Our parents from Greece and all our friends informed us about the Paris events, in Bastille. There was panic among us, we didn’t know what had happened. We were asking people next to us, but they didn’t know either. We could see people running like crazy in the streets, looking for a taxi. Ambulance sirens were heard all over the place. We were literally lost. The waiter began to slowly lower the shutters of the shop and gather the chairs from the patio. We finally learned there have been explosions and shootings at cafés in Bastille and 10th. We quickly stood up and left. This was something unprecedented for us. We walked towards the Pantheon, were we had parked our car. Streets were empty, first time that Paris was empty on a Friday night. Our phones were ringing like crazy from our friends in Greece. Until I got home I experienced fear in every sense of the word. When I finally got there I saw in the internet what had happened. Chaos, people killed in the streets! We stayed at home for two days. Paris will never be the same after this.”
“On Friday night, I was at a café in Odeon, together with my sister and friends from Greece. At around 11pm, my sister told me they send her text messages from Greece, asking if we are well. The truth is we didn’t realize why. After a while, having spoken with my father in Greece, I learn there have been shootings in Bastille and 10th; right next to my family house. It was calm at the café I was at, people didn’t look terrified. After receiving phone calls from their parents, two Parisian friends insisted we should leave. We get up, pay and start walking to Quartier Latin. I didn’t see anything strange in the streets, even though the truth is that Rue Soufflot, that is usually full of life, looked dead. As soon as I reach home, I find out from the internet that there have been shootings and people got killed in the 10th and 11th arrondissements of Paris, and in Bataclan also. Hollande announces a state of emergency and martial law, with a curfew until a new order is issued. Some friends from Paris call me, asking if I am OK. It rains text messages from Greece, and everybody is upset. The square under my house is empty. Paris looks empty; you can’t hear voices from the streets. Silence prevails.
The sun came out in Paris on the next day, and the people also. You meet people at cafés, discussing the events of last night. The metro is empty, but the traffic in the streets is intolerable.
Tourist areas are full of people, and there is not too much police around. This modern terror warfare kills innocent young people, and it will unfortunately continue to do so. However, in a big city like Paris, life never stops.”
Originally published in New Diaspora on November 16, 2015.