Sunday 15 September 2019

Paris Terror Attacks: 'We will not flee and we will not fear them... Paris will unify'

Irishman Tim McInerney (29)
Irishman Tim McInerney (29)
Angus Smith

Adam Cullen and Mark Condren

It's a city that attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. But yesterday it seemed that most tourists wanted nothing more than to get out of the French capital.

The feeling of a ghost town fell over what is normally one of the busiest cities in Europe.

On Friday night, the sound of gunshots and explosions rang out into the night sky. Last night, they were replaced by the flicker of flashes and clicks of shutters.

Instead of photographing the iconic Eiffel Tower or the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, thousands flocked to photograph bullet holes and bloodstained streets.

They joined the locals who came in great numbers to support the fallen people of their city in a unifying display of solidarity.

It is not the first time Paris has been rocked by such an attack - and many believe it won't be the last.

Standing metres away from her home near the Bataclan theatre, where 89 people were killed, a 60-year-old woman stood hand in hand with her two-year-old grandson and remembered how she almost lost her life in an attack 40 years ago.

"Where does it end? Just where does it end - where does it leave this generation?" she said, pointing towards the blonde-haired, blue-eyed little boy.

"In 1974, I almost died when a grenade was thrown into the Drugstore Saint Germain.

"It was part of the fashionable circuit of restaurants and bars on Paris's Left Bank at the time.

"I had gone inside to get a beer for my boyfriend when a grenade blast ripped through glass, tables and even the people," she said.

"This brought it all rushing back to me. I have lived through three horrible events. What hope is there for my grandchildren?"

The woman described Friday night as a "chaos like I have never seen before".

"My heart goes out to everyone who has to live with this, and the families. It never leaves you."

Isil has claimed responsibility for the chilling attack. It wanted to "watch the city burn". It failed. All that burned in Paris last night was a thousand candles. There was an eerie cloud of calm in the air. But a storm of defiance lies ahead.

Standing on the blood-stained street a mere 20 metres away from where her friends were shot down, a young woman explained that they will "fight to the bitter end".

"I live just across the road," she said as a single tear streamed down her left cheek.

Single white rose in hand, Sasha German said that when she heard the first gunshot, she instantly knew the sound.

"This is just two short blocks away from where the 'Charlie Hebdo' offices are. I will remember it until the day I die.

"That day was the first time that I ever heard a gunshot, that's how I knew it was gunfire I heard again on Friday," she explained.

"But we will not flee in fear...Paris will unify."

It had been a bustling Friday night in the city. Music lovers flocked to a rock concert, sports fans to a soccer match, while others met friends over a bite in the city's famous cafés.

It was a night that memories should be made of. It's a night that the world will now never forget.

Irishman Tim McInerney (29) heard the shots and was barricaded into a nearby Michelin-star restaurant, Septime.

"People say the gunshots sounded like firecrackers. To me, they sounded like metal barrels falling from the sky.

"We didn't know what to do. We rushed out of the restaurant and saw a commotion down at the end of the street.

"Someone who knew what a Kalashnikov rifle sounded like then realised that it wasn't fireworks that we were hearing and everyone rushed back inside.

"We were told to take shelter behind concrete pillars instead of tables because the wooden tables would not stop the bullets. It was just horrible," added Mr McInerney, who has been teaching British history in a French university for the last three years.

"The mood in Paris now is definitely one of fear," said Mr McInerney.

"Before, with the 'Charlie Hebdo' attacks, there was a purpose, there was a message. With this, they just wanted carnage.

"They just wanted to kill us all."

Fellow Irishman Angus Smyth is a barman in the Cork and Cavan Irish Bar just around the corner. He too witnessed the attacks.

"We didn't realise what was happening at the time. We had the match on and they didn't cut the live feed. Some people in the bar where starting to hear about it and word got through.

"The military arrived after about half an hour and started to tell us to shut the doors.

"So we had to lock the doors and we were here until about half one."

Irish Independent

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