Eyewitness: Paris one night after nightmare

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Eyewitness: Paris one night after nightmare

The Carillon is one of the hippest bars in the trendiest areas of Paris, but like the city of Paris as a whole, it is unlikely ever to be the same again. Sam Davies reports from Paris the night after Friday's atrocities.


The Carillon: every hipster Parisian’s favourite dive bar by the Canal St Martin. The beer was average, the wine even more so; but what it had was disheveled charm, much like the clientele who flocked there at apero hour most evenings.

And on Friday night was no exception. At 8:20pm the outside terrace was filling up; most of the wooden chairs – barely big enough for primary school children – occupied.

The Carillon was the hub of local nightlife in the 10th arrondissement, a magnet mainly for Parisians in their 20s and 30s, long-term expats and jaded journos, away from the chic Marais and elegant Rive Gauche.

A bullethole in a Parisian shop window.

Across the street, the Petit Cambodge (smaller, newer, chicer than the original restaurant barely 200 metres down the road), is where the hip and hungry can stare out from benches in blond wood through floor to ceiling windows at the passers-by. If you’re lucky, or early, you can get a seat at one of these tables.

Juliette, a woman in her early 30s who lives behind the St Louis hospital just up the hill, walked past with her friends around 8pm last night.

“Hey, there’s not many people there for once! Let’s go!” she said. But her friends had already decided to eat at the Irish pub Cork and Cavan.

Two young children visit the scene of one of the attacks.

At 22:15 she received an alert on her phone: shots fired at Charonne. Being an entire arrondissement away there was nothing to fear. They tossed up going to the Carillon but decided on the Comptoir General, a popular African-themed bar just off the canal.

“We got there and it was shut, yet three minutes earlier our friends said it was open. I just thought they were trying to create a buzz,” she said. “And then we saw the ambulances.”

Not far away, at the bottom of Rue Alibert, Remy Moginot, a long-standing local in his late 20s, was heading to an appointment, when he was given reason to pause.

Bloody footprints were still visible on the streets where victims had fled from the killers.

“I saw these cars stopping and people screaming. First I thought it was a bank heist. Then they started to hide behind cars, and then I just did the same, but I thought that they might come out and try to steal a car or hit people, so I thought it best was to hide in a park.”

He continued back along the canal towards a McDonalds on the corner, but the spree followed him.

“I lay on my stomach and then I heard strong noise, gun shots, a big ‘bam’, you know, like when you stamp on a cardboard juice carton…it made the same noise but much bigger.

Two girls create a poster, saying 'Not scared'

“Then people were screaming, in the McDonalds people tried to get inside, but they closed it. At the café (on the corner of Rue Faubourg du Temple and Rue Folie de la Mericourt) people were on the floor. I saw blood. I saw people on the floor. I saw one dead person.”

After the carnage, a stillness has settled on the intersection between the Carillon and Petit Cambodge. By mid-afternoon on Saturday, journalists from Spain, the US, and Denmark had gathered, along with startled locals, still in too much shock to register the event in the lively neighbourhood.

The blackboard to the right of the Carillon reads “Happy Hours 18-20h”. But the bouquet of hydrangeas blocking the door betrays today's new reality.

There was a strong police presence across Paris in the aftermath of the killings.

Tom de Fleur, a hippyish florist from the neighbourhood opened up his shop this morning. The café next to him did not.

“I wanted a place where people could come together,” he said. “Now I’m torn as people are coming here to buy flowers.” His eyes well up as a customer walks in and hugs him. She leaves with a handful of white roses. “The same, thanks,” says another man.

Then there are clean-up vans, five in total – as many as there are news vans. Men in white suits using high-powered hoses to wash away stains and sawdust from the footpath. A single bloody boot print left on the pedestrian crossing leaves an indication why.

Text and pictures: Sam Davies



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