Monday 24 October 2016

Paris Terror Attacks: 'I survived 9/11 and the Bataclan massacre'

Fourteen years after surviving the 9/11 attack on New York an American living in Paris found himself caught up in the Islamic State massacre at the Bataclan theatre

Henri Samuel and Patrick Sawer

Published 21/11/2015 | 14:11

A woman is being evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a shooting in Paris
A woman is being evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a shooting in Paris
A member of the French fire brigade aids an injured individual near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris

An American who fled for his life when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center's twin towers on 9/11 has told how he survived the attack on the Bataclan theatre.

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The 36-year-old was shot in the leg on Friday night as he fled from the Paris theatre where three Islamic State terrorists killed 89 people.

Matthew, whose surname has not been disclosed, was among the crowd at the Bataclan concert hall watching the Californian band Eagles of Death Metal when the gunmen burst in and began shooting into the crowd.

He said he instantly recognised the sound of gunshots and ran for the exit. “Perhaps it’s my American culture,” he added.

 Matthew, who was felled after being hit by a bullet, said he managed to crawl towards the exit each time the killers stopped to recharge their Kalashnikovs, finding himself “three or four metres from it with two or three people on top of (me)”.

He said: “I inched forward centimetre by centimetre. At one point, I saw the ledge of the exit at arm’s reach. I was able to grip it with one finger, then the other.”

Once outside, exhausted, he collapsed on the pavement, where Daniel Psenny, a Le Monde journalist and another man dressed in black came to his aid.

This is the second narrow escape from a terrorist strike for the American. He was at the foot of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 heading to a work meeting when a United Airlines plane struck one of the twin towers.

“I sprinted across half of Manhattan,” he said. “But what I went through in the Bataclan was 1,000 times worse,” he said.

Monsieur Psenny, who had been in his apartment filming panic-stricken concert goers rushing from the scene – including a pregnant woman hanging form an upstairs window – managed to drag him to safety, but was himself shot by one of the gunmen.

“I was playing dead,” Matthew told Le Monde. “When I felt someone dragging me by the arms, I didn’t even look up. I said, or at least in my head – ‘I love you, my angel,’” he said.

Matthew’s wife was due to accompany him to the concert but had to stay at home as they could find no babysitter for their two young children.

After managing to drag Matthew inside the flat M. Psenny was shot in the arm as he slammed the front door shut in order to prevent the gunmen getting inside.

Inside neighbours helped stem the flow of blood from M. Psenny and Matthew’s wounds. The American was so shocked that he took two hours to remember his wife’s number to tell her he was alive.

Growing progressively weaker from the loss of blood and trapped inside the flat as police battled their way into the Bataclan, the pair feared they would be dead before they could get help.

Police eventually allowed terrified residents out of their flats three hours later and Matthew and M. Psenny were evacuated by ambulance to George Pompidou, where they were later reunited.

 M. Psenny said he did not feel like a hero, adding: “I didn’t think, I acted instinctively. I had the human reflex not to let someone die in front of me, but it was the circumstances that allowed it.

“If I had been under machine gun fire, I no doubt wouldn’t have come to get Matthew.”

The pair promised to share a glass “or probably the entire bottle” when they have fully recovered from their ordeal.

Matthew, who moved to Paris with his family in July, said he might even consider returning to the Bataclan for another concert, at some point in the future.

"I might go back to the Bataclan one day. We'll see," he said.

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