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Paris one month on: Let's hope fraternity is lasting impact

The Local · 15 Dec 2015, 11:12

Published: 15 Dec 2015 11:12 GMT+01:00

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The media circus has packed up its tents and decamped from Place de la Republique. The attacks on Paris are no longer news.  One month out, our newsfeeds are again preoccupied with Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen.

La Bonne Bière has opened its doors again, but residents of the 10th and 11th arrondissements—where scars of the siege remain visible—are still trying to cope with loss, just now coming to terms with the memories of that night.

The shock has worn off, and Parisians are feeling the effects, talking about their experiences, bringing the fuller story to light in a more intimate and personal way.

Like Yanis, a young Parisian who gives away candles at the memorial in front of La Belle Equipe in the 11th arrondissement where 19 people lost their lives. When asked why he’s doing this, Yanis points to a photo of Ludovic Boumbas, the young man at the birthday party that night, who’d put himself between the gunman and his friends. “My brother,” Yanis says of the man. He doesn’t mean his blood brother, but his North African brother, his good buddy.

“I was here that night,” he says, eyes growing round. “I was passing by; I was in a hurry. I saw my friends outside the café. I said a quick ‘ciao-ciao’ and kept going.” He pantomimes his actions as he speaks: giving the cheek kisses—bises; high-fiving the air were the hands of his friends once were. “I was halfway up the street when it happened. But I didn’t know until later.”

That it could have been him still plagues him. Are the candles a way of assuaging survivor’s guilt? “No,” he replies quickly. Then after a beat, “I don’t know…maybe. It’s just something I have to do.”

A few Métro stops north of La Belle Equipe, the staff of Chef Pierre Sang’s two restaurants, on Rue Oberkampf and Rue Gambey, have their own tale to tell. Located just up the street from the Bataclan, and not five minutes walk from La Bonne Bière and the adjacent Cosa Nostra, they were surrounded by chaos and gunfire that night.

The Oberkampf restaurant, vulnerable with its façade of windows, had been packed on that warm Friday evening. Amid the siege at the Bataclan, the staff and clientele of the restaurant fled to the more understated Gambey location around the corner, which had been turned into a kind of bunker.

There, they doused the lights and shuttered the windows, took refuge for hours, until they were told their ordeal was over.

In the days after the attacks, Chef Pierre’s restaurants, like so many others, suffered from cancellations and no-shows, especially as they are becoming popular with tourists.

Things are slowly picking up for him, but other businesses have had a harder time, especially those close to the terror targets, or in more touristy districts.

The economic impact of the attacks is just starting to be felt, like the emotional reside. It was so in New York and the U.S. after 9/11, and it stands to reason the attacks in Paris will likewise have an impact, especially on an economy already troubled. Hotels in Paris have reported losses since the attacks, as well as tourism and vacation rental businesses. One hopes this is temporary.

At a tiny grocerette on Rue Oberkampf, near Rue de Malte, a small pile of cellophane-wrapped flowers has appeared. The shop itself has been closed for some time. “He was at the Bataclan,” a neighbor offered as an explanation. Whether true or not, this phrase is starting to crop up more and more, with so many losing their lives in the venue. In tight communities like the 10th and 11th arrondissements, it’s becoming commonplace to learn of someone who knew someone who died.

A friend lost two friends in the Bataclan. Another lost several at La Belle Equipe, who all worked at Café des Anges, another local watering hole. These connections to those who have died draw in the effects of the attacks more tightly, intensifying and personalizing the sense of loss. Time, in this case, does not dull the pain.

Story continues below…

The press may have moved on, but Paris is just beginning the long process toward healing. Life in the city carries on, but not blindly as in the first days after the shootings. More purposefully, thoughtfully.

“We look each other in the eye on the Métro,” a friend noted. “And everyone seems a little more kind.”

There is a sense of communion among Parisians that only a shared tragedy can bring, something positive in the wake of pain.

This unity and brotherhood is one effect of the attacks worth hanging on to as Paris moves forward.


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