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

Writer Lisa Anselmo gauges how Paris is coping one month after the devastating terror attacks and how she hopes the new found fraternity among locals will be the true lasting impact of the attacks.

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

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.

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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Paris faces poignant Friday 13th six months after attacks

It's been exactly six months since terrorists killed 130 people in Paris, and while the city may have changed and the wounds are still unhealed, the Parisians will be out en force tonight, writes Oliver Gee.

Paris faces poignant Friday 13th six months after attacks
Photo: AFP
Today marks the first six months to very day, Friday November 13th, when jihadists gunned down 130 people in Paris and left 400 more injured. 
The city's residents have had to overcome numerous psychological landmarks since the attacks and the six month anniversary, especially given that it falls on a Friday is another barrier.
Some Parisians, as many did in the days and weeks after the attacks, may think twice before heading out on Friday May 13th.
 “Considering it's Friday the 13th, let's avoid the terraces” was just one message sent to a member of staff at the The Local that may have echoed many people's thoughts in the capital this week.
Even though most of the Paris attackers are dead and the last known surviving suspect has been caught and charged in France, the reality is the terror threat remains and the memories of six months ago still loom large.
While most Parisians have not let their fears change their lives the city still has a slightly different feel.
For one thing, the state of emergency is still underway and has recently been extended for at least a few more months
The tourism industry has taken an almighty whack, with a recent study saying visitor numbers are over 20 percent lower than this time last year. 
Hotels around the city were at around 70 percent occupancy last month, compared to 80 percent in April last year, reported Le Parisien. Many have lowered their rates to become more attractive, yet still can't fill their beds. 
A restaurant union head told the paper that there are fewer people heading out for a bite to eat and that Paris has become “a ghost town” after 10pm.
Meanwhile, the numbers of Asian tourists in town have taken a solid hit, which has been noticed by the big department stores, and museums are suffering similarly, with the Orsay recording an almost ten-percent dip in visitor figures this year compared to 2015. 
Of course, this isn't all just a direct result of the Paris attacks. The Brussels attacks must be taken into account, as the recent staggered school holidays across Europe has meant April wasn't a typical month.
Aside from the tourists, the families of the victims and the injured have been struggling to return to a normal life, with many undergoing counselling for the traumas they have suffered.
Many were angered and upset earlier this week to learn that they were charged with unpaid taxes of their loved ones who had died in the attacks. 
Anger as families sent tax bills for Paris terror attack victims
However, most Parisians have continued to show a brave face, much as they have since the very early days after the attacks. Away from the tourists sites and the hotels, the typical Parisian would tell you that most of the changes from after the terror attacks aren't even noticeable anymore. 
Sure, locals plan ahead for additional security at airports, they expect a (sometimes half-hearted) bag check at large shopping centres, and they're unlikely to even notice the soldiers walking around the streets anymore.
But the restaurants and the cafes that were targeted in the attacks – none of which were major tourist haunts anyway – have all reopened, most removing any signs of flowers or memorials. 
The Carillon bar – where 15 people were shot dead – is overflowing each night as summer approaches, and the prime seats on the terrace of the Bonne Biere are as hard to snag now as they should be. 
And while the Bataclan concert hall remains closed, owners have said it will open in November this year with shows from Pete Doherty and the Senegalese star Youssou N'Dour.
And, in an impressive sign of solidarity, Paris firefighters have been hosting free “life-saving” courses every weekend since the attacks – and the demand remains huge
Yes, life in Paris goes on. 
And while the weather may not be amazing today and some of the wary may hesitate, you can bet your last centime that the terraces of Paris will be packed tonight, just as they should be on any Friday in spring.