‘It’s just too soon’: Bataclan survivors face traumatic gig

The Eagles of Death Metal will make an emotional and highly charged return to Paris on Tuesday, but for many survivors of the Bataclan massacre, the concert may simply have come too soon.

'It's just too soon': Bataclan survivors face traumatic gig
Eagles of Death Metal perform in the Bataclan just minutes before gunmen burst in. Photo: AFP

Just three months after gunmen burst through the doors at theParis concert venue and murdered 90 people, the survivors are facing a tough decision on Tuesday.

With Eagles of Death Metal making an emotional return to Paris “to finish their concert”, the survivors are faced with having to decide whether or not to put themselves through what will be a traumatic and stressful, but potentially cathartic experience.

Some survivors are adamant they need to go. One, named Helene, said she is not at all worried and hopes it will help bring her closure.

“It will allow me to finish the concert,” she said, referring to the fateful gig at the Bataclan on November 13th.

But with just hours to go before the concert, Paul, whom The Local spoke to on November 13th shortly after escaping from the Bataclan, is still torn.

“I wanted to go, but now it’s getting close and it’s feeling more real, I’m starting to get scared,” the 27-year-old told The Local on Tuesday.

“I made sure I got a ticket but now I have the feeling that it’s just too soon. It’s only been three months,” he said.

Paul, like other survivors who have talked about their fears and desires of returning to see the band in concert, said the issue is not about the dread of another terror attack, but more about what traumatic memories might suddenly emerge while in a confided space alongside hundreds of others.

“I’m not scared something will happen, we know there will be soldiers and police everywhere. But it might create an atmosphere of fear and I am not really sure I want to go through that,” he said.

On the night the gunmen stormed the Bataclan, Paul was downstairs with hundreds of others facing the band with their backs to the entrance.

“We heard this noise behind us, but no one really thought much of it at first. We never thought for one moment it was a terror attack,” he said. 

“They came in through the front door and just began shooting at the crowd, shooting at everyone like crazy.

“I heard them shout something like, 'This is for Syria' and 'This is for Iraq'. There were three of them. They were shouting at people not to move and if they did, they just shot them. They would shoot whenever a mobile telephone went off.”

Every survivor has their own harrowing story of that night and many like Paul will wait until the last minute on Tuesday before deciding whether to go.

“I can understand people wanting to go, so they can say they did it, but I just don't think it will make people forget what happened,” he said.

Psychologist Carole Damiani, who leads a support group for the Bataclan victims, warned some people could panic if the situation is not handled correctly.

While some fans who were wounded are physically well enough to be in the audience, the mental scars were still painfully raw, she insisted.

“When one person is panicking it is one thing, but a collective panic is something else,” she told AFP.

Going to the concert with “the same music and in a similar venue only three months later, they will be plunged into a similar sensory atmosphere,” which could trigger trauma, she warned. “For some that could be painful.”

A team of 30 volunteer counsellors and psychologists will be on hand in the theatre, she said, adding: “No one should kid themselves that this concert is going to cure them and put everything right.

Despite the area around the city's Olympia theatre being locked down by police the band's singer Jesse Hughes vowed it would “be a regular rock show”.

“Rock and roll for me has always been fun and I am not going to let anyone take that away from me, or my friends,” he said, referring to the band's fans.

Eagles of Death Metal’s pro-gun frontman Jesse Hughes stirred up controversy on the eve of the gig by suggesting that if the public had been armed then the massacre could have been prevented.

But Paul disagrees.

“Perhaps if people had had weapons, the terrorists, who were wearing bomb vests,  would have acted even more violently and more decisively.

“There may have been fewer deaths, but it still would have been just as tragic.”

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Historic trial begins in Paris over November 2015 terror attacks

The biggest trial in France's modern legal history begins on Wednesday over the November 2015 attacks on Paris that saw 130 people killed at bars, restaurants, the Stade de France and the Bataclan concert hall.

Historic trial begins in Paris over November 2015 terror attacks
A memorial to the 130 victims of the November 13th attacks in Paris. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

The suicide bombing and gun assault by three teams of jihadists, planned from Syria and later claimed by the Islamic State group, was France’s worst post-war atrocity.

The only surviving attacker, Salah Abdeslam, will be in the dock at the purpose-built facility at the historic court of justice on the Île de la Cité in central Paris, along with 13 other defendants.

Six others are being tried in absentia. Twelve of the 20 people on trial, including Abdeslam, face life sentences if convicted.

“We are entering the unknown,” said Arthur Denouveaux, a survivor of the Bataclan music venue attack and president of Life for Paris, a victims’ association. “We can’t wait for it to start, but we’re asking, How will it be for the next nine months?”

The trial will last until May 2022, with 145 days for hearings involving about 330 lawyers, 300 victims and former president François Hollande, who will testify in November.

The case file runs to a million pages in 542 volumes, measuring 53 metres across.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti this week described the trial as “historic” and “one of all superlatives” as he inspected the courtroom.

Surviving gunman Abdeslam, now 31, who was born in Belgium but has French and Moroccan nationality, fled the scene of the carnage after abandoning his suicide belt, which investigators later found to be defective.

He was captured four months later in Brussels, hiding in a building close to his family home.

Abdeslam has resolutely refused to cooperate with the French investigation and remained largely silent throughout a separate trial in Belgium in 2018, where he declared only that he put his “trust in Allah” and that the court was biased.

A major question is whether he will speak at his scheduled testimony, set for mid-January.

Another focus of the trial will be on how the squad of killers managed to enter France undetected, allegedly using the flow of migrants from Islamic State-controlled regions of Syria as cover.

Fourteen of the accused – who face charges ranging from providing logistical support to planning the attacks as well as weapons offences – are expected to be present in court.

They include a Swedish national, Osama Krayem, who Belgian investigators have identified as one of the killers of a Jordanian pilot burned alive in a cage by Isis in early 2015 in Syria. He is also under investigation in Sweden for war crimes.

The alleged coordinator, Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed by French police northeast of Paris five days after the attacks.

Of the six tried in absentia, five are presumed dead, mainly in air strikes in Syria.

The horror was unleashed late on the night of Friday, November 13th, when jihadists detonated suicide belts outside the Stade de France stadium where Hollande was in the crowd watching France play a football match against Germany. One man was killed there.

A group of Islamist gunmen, including Abdeslam’s brother Brahim, later opened fire from a car on half a dozen restaurants in the trendy 10th and 11th Arrondissements of the capital, which were packed with people on the balmy autumn evening.

The massacre culminated at the Bataclan music venue. Three jihadists stormed in during a performance, killing a total of 90 people.

While the trial’s initial phase will be devoted to procedural issues, testimonies are expected to begin on September 28th from some 300 survivors and relatives of victims for five weeks of harrowing statements.

Security forces will be on high alert.