Paris’s Longest Night

At half previous 9 within the night, on Friday, November thirteenth, Matthieu, a thirty-three-year-old resident of Paris, was consuming dinner outdoors with mates at Le Petit Cambodge, a restaurant within the Tenth Arrondissement, close to the Canal Saint-Martin. The Canal is a cosmopolitan neighborhood, and a favourite vacation spot for town’s twenty- and thirty-somethings. The restaurant serves Cambodian meals in an environment of business stylish, with lengthy tables, a lot of brushed metal, and bare gentle bulbs. The night was gentle. Across the road, at a comfortably dingy bar referred to as Le Carillon, patrons have been mingling on the sidewalk with their drinks.

A automobile screeched to a cease just a few toes from the place Matthieu was sitting and a person jumped out, firing a Kalashnikov. For a second, Matthieu thought he was watching a personal settling of scores. Then the person fired a second burst; there was an amazing shattering of home windows and bottles. Matthieu leapt over the desk and began working. At the highest of the road, he stopped and listened. It was solely then that he realized {that a} bullet had lodged in his left hand. His pinkie and ring fingers hung at a crooked angle.

“The terrible thing is that I saw I was out of danger, and so I had two options,” he instructed me. “I could either leave or go back to see my friends, at the risk of being shot again.”

We have been sitting in Matthieu’s condominium, near Père Lachaise Cemetery. I’d met him 4 years earlier by means of mutual mates, however, except for working into one another at their wedding ceremony, we hadn’t been in contact since. He spoke wearily, pausing ceaselessly to take lengthy, shaking breaths. His left hand was bandaged, the 2 broken fingers trussed collectively, a hospital bracelet nonetheless round his wrist. In his good hand he held a cigarette, which trembled as he moved it to his lips. Two days had handed for the reason that assaults, which have been organized by an ISIS terrorist cell with roots close to Brussels and carried out concurrently at six areas round Paris. Three suicide bombers had blown themselves up outdoors the Stade de France throughout a France-Germany soccer match, killing one civilian. At the Bataclan, a live performance venue on the Boulevard Voltaire, three gunmen fired into the trapped crowd. The official dying toll of 100 and twenty-nine was positive to rise.

Once he heard the gunfire cease, Matthieu made his means again to the restaurant. “I saw a lot of women dead on the ground,” he stated, his voice catching on the “f” of “femmes.” “It was mostly women that I saw.” He discovered one in all his mates, a Brazilian learning in Paris, mendacity in the course of the road. She had been seated throughout from him, and was shot within the chest. Matthieu sat on the bottom and held her legs, feeling her shallow respiratory. She would survive.

People have been working by means of the streets in an eruption of panic, shouting because the police arrived and tried to determine order. The scene couldn’t be secured; Matthieu apprehensive that the shooters may return. Next to him, a person with out accidents held his girlfriend’s lifeless physique in his arms. Then, with out warning, he ran off. The girl was about twenty-five and really stunning. Matthieu looked for phrases to explain her excellent, uncanny stillness.

A couple of medical employees got here to the scene virtually instantly. Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon, which additionally got here below fireplace, are down the road from l’Hôpital Saint-Louis, one in all Paris’s largest hospitals. But due to the quantity and severity of the assaults, and a confusion about whether or not the killers may nonetheless be at massive, it took almost two hours for ambulances to start evacuating individuals.

As Matthieu was loaded into an ambulance, medics instructed him that he had been shot within the small of the again; adrenaline had masked the ache. The bullet had stopped simply wanting his backbone. Surgeons on the hospital the place he was taken instructed him it was riskier to take away it than not. He requested them to attempt anyway. “I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this tool of Daesh”—the Arabic acronym for ISIS extensively utilized in France—“in my body?” He rolled an imaginary pellet in his fingers, then launched it with a shudder. The bullet was extracted.

All final week in Paris, survivors of the assaults recounted their experiences on tv, intercut with smiling Facebook profile footage of the murdered in addition to head photographs of the terrorists. “LE VISAGE DE LA TERREUR” learn the headline on the Thursday cowl of Libération, subsequent to an image of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the younger Belgian jihadist who had directed the assaults, grinning warmly, like a person in a trip picture. He had been killed the day earlier than, with at the very least two others, throughout a raid by French particular forces on a home within the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. A variety of accomplices had been arrested. Saleh Abdeslam, who together with his brother had taken half within the assaults, was nonetheless on the run.

Apprehension took maintain of town. Two weeks earlier, ISIS had claimed accountability for blowing up a Russian industrial jet leaving the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing its 200 and twenty-four passengers. On the day earlier than the assaults in Paris, two ISIS suicide bombers murdered forty-three individuals in a suburb of Beirut. Last Friday, information got here that gunmen had stormed a Radisson resort in Mali and brought some hundred and seventy hostages, separating out Muslims from non-Muslims; supporters of ISIS celebrated on Twitter.

The day after seeing Matthieu, I visited Patrick Aeberhard, a heart specialist and a co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières, at his condominium overlooking the Canal Saint-Martin, throughout the road from a café referred to as La Bonne Bière. We watched François Hollande on tv addressing a joint session of the French Parliament at Versailles. Hollande strode by means of a hall lined with guards in red-plumed hats, sheathed sabres at their sides, and into the meeting corridor. “France is at war,” he stated. A bombing marketing campaign on Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold in Syria, had begun the night time earlier than. Hollande invoked a clause of a European Union treaty which requires different member states to come back to assistance from a rustic below assault, and proposed adjustments to France’s structure to facilitate the prosecution of terrorists.

After Hollande completed talking, the Parliament rose to sing the “Marseillaise.” At the traces “Against us, tyranny! The bloody standard is raised!” Aeberhard muted the tv. On the night of the assaults, he had been returning residence from the funeral of his pal the thinker André Glucksmann when he heard gunfire. “Since I’m sort of used to countries in the midst of war, I recognized the sound of Kalashnikovs right away,” he stated.

On the sidewalk in entrance of La Bonne Bière, a younger girl had been shot within the thigh; her companion had a bullet in his shoulder. He went to assist them, pondering, as Matthieu had, that he was witness to some personal act of revenge. Then he noticed individuals contained in the restaurant administering chest compressions to others mendacity on the bottom. Four different individuals lay close by, clearly useless. He handled the lady, utilizing tourniquets comprised of strips of napkins and tablecloths that waiters delivered to him, and went inside to assist. A couple of first-aid responders arrived. “They began to organize a hospital in the restaurant,” he instructed me. With Médecins sans Frontières, and later with the group Médecins du Monde, Aeberhard had seen conflicts in Lebanon, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, amongst many different nations. The state of affairs reminded him of what he had seen in Beirut: “Blood absolutely everywhere—it was a war scene.”

Just as at Le Petit Cambodge, ambulances have been gradual to reach. “We waited a very, very long time,” Aeberhard instructed me. “I think we lost one or two people.” When they did come, triage proved sophisticated. “There was a woman who had been shot in the stomach, and who was doing much better sitting up,” Aeberhard stated. She was virtually handed over in favor of people that have been splayed on the bottom with wounds that have been much less dire. “I had to fight for them to take her in the first round.”

A plan blanc, town’s process for calling all medical employees to its hospitals in moments of disaster, had gone into impact. Another physician I spoke with instructed me that sufferers started arriving at his hospital round midnight, two to an ambulance. He stated that though his colleagues have been used to dealing with traumatic accidents, “there was a psychological dimension to this that none of us had ever experienced before.”

Families rushed to hospital entrances however couldn’t get in; medical employees had little sense of what was happening outdoors. There hadn’t been time to carry out correct identification of the injured and the useless, and, within the days that adopted, individuals roamed from hospital to hospital seeking the lacking. Nearly per week later, a full listing of names nonetheless hadn’t been launched.

Aeberhard was born in Paris in 1945, and started learning to develop into a physician in his teenagers—“the classic path of the overprotected bourgeois child,” he stated. He was a soixante-huitard, one of many youths who participated within the pupil protests of May, 1968, however he rapidly grew disillusioned with the flexibility of demonstrations to impact political change. That fall, as a hospital intern, he had responded to a Red Cross marketing campaign soliciting medical volunteers to assist out in Biafra; Médecins sans Frontières was created three years later.

By 1975, Aeberhard was working half time for the group and in addition had a cardiology follow in Saint-Denis, simply down the road from the home the place the terrorists have been discovered. He labored there till six months in the past, and had noticed firsthand the demographic shift that had taken place within the neighborhood throughout the eighties and nineties. The postwar French working-class inhabitants had been changed by immigrants from poorer European nations, like Portugal, Italy, and Poland. Then got here the Maghrébins—individuals from the previous French colonies of North Africa.


“We saw the signs of fundamentalism start,” Aeberhard stated. “The women began dressing differently, and men began dressing differently. I’d say that was the first exterior sign.” The high quality of the native faculty declined, as did that of the native hospital.

“In Saint-Denis, there are about eighty different nationalities,” Aeberhard stated. (Other estimates run increased.) “So it’s not a city of French—even poor French—origin any longer. It’s a cosmopolitan city. And cosmopolitan cities should be good! I’m all for them!” He laughed. “But it’s a city with a lot of tension. Twenty-five per cent of the population doesn’t work. Thirty per cent of the population votes. You see, it’s a real problem. We didn’t know how to integrate the Maghrébins, who were mostly northern Algerian, who were French, who should have blended right in.”

Ten months in the past, after the satirical journal Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store have been attacked, greater than one million and a half individuals marched by means of the middle of Paris—the most important demonstration within the latest historical past of a rustic during which marches are essentially the most important expression of solidarity. But after final week’s violence, the police forbade Parisians from assembling in massive teams for their very own security. Instead, individuals gathered quietly, singing songs and embracing strangers. At the assault websites, they laid candles and flowers and handwritten notes.

The query of learn how to react to the brand new spherical of terrorism went deeper than mere logistics. The Charlie Hebdo shootings had been extensively understood as an assault on freedom of expression and French secularism; all around the nation, individuals got here collectively to proclaim their lack of worry. But now individuals have been afraid. The journalists of Charlie Hebdo had identified that they have been terrorist targets, and had carried on their work at nice private threat. Last week’s victims have been regular individuals doing regular Parisian issues: consuming and consuming collectively, going out at night time to listen to a live performance or watch a soccer recreation. After just a few days, the rhythm of Parisian life returned, however a brand new fatalism hung within the air. People appeared resigned to the concept extra assaults would occur, possibly quickly.

Even earlier than November thirteenth, the sense of unity established in January had begun to erode. The novelist and filmmaker Abdellah Taïa instructed me that, after Charlie Hebdo, “this question was here in my head suddenly: Am I going to spend my whole life in France?” It was Monday night, and we have been sitting at La Veilleuse, a café on the Boulevard de Belleville, a brief stroll from La Bonne Bière and Le Petit Cambodge. Aside from a few fast journeys to select up groceries, since Friday night time he had been too afraid and depressed to go away his condominium. The afternoon earlier than the shootings, he had gone to the general public steambaths within the largely Maghrébin neighborhood of Barbès, within the Eighteenth Arrondissement, after which returned residence to observe the France-Germany match. He was asleep when a pal in Casablanca referred to as him with the information.

Taïa was born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1973, and grew up within the metropolis of Salé, the eighth of 9 kids. His household was poor, and spoke solely Arabic at residence. As a toddler, he dreamed of turning into a filmmaker, and he later pursued his research with an eye fixed to enhancing his French in order that he may someday dwell in Paris. He arrived within the metropolis on the age of twenty-five to work on his doctorate, on the Sorbonne, specializing in Jean-Honoré Fragonard, the eighteenth-century painter.

In phrases of French cultural life, Taïa is without delay an outsider and an insider. He finds the prospect of dwelling in Morocco inconceivable—he’s homosexual—however as a North African Muslim he feels the confines of French society, the narrowness of its cultural expectations. More younger individuals have travelled from France to battle in Syria than from every other European nation, and there’s livid debate in France in regards to the ways in which the cultural separation of the banlieues could go away the younger males who develop up there prone to recruitment by terrorist networks. Taïa was horrified by the fear, however sympathetic to the bigger downside of isolation within the banlieues. “I relate to immigrants from the suburbs more and more,” he stated.

I mentioned the topic over dinner one night time with my pal Sonia Ferhani, a doctoral candidate in English literature on the École Normale Supérieure. She was born in Algeria, a member of the Kabyle ethnic group, and immigrated to France together with her dad and mom in 1993, on the age of six. She understood Taïa’s view of the banlieues’ isolation, however she harassed the significance of non-public company. “No one has to tell you, ‘Yeah, you’re French,’ ” she stated.

She and her two brothers have been raised in Pantin, a banlieue simply accessible to Paris by Métro. Her dad and mom had taken her into town on a regular basis, however, she stated, “people who lived right where I lived would never go to Paris.”

Sonia has had an élite French schooling—Catholic faculty, the distinguished Lycée Louis-le-Grand, the École Normale—and is fast to acknowledge that her path is in contrast to that of virtually all her contemporaries from Pantin. “It’s not perfect,” she stated, of France. “But even if it’s cliché to say we’re the land of freedom, or that ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité ’ doesn’t mean anything—it does!” Her voice grew passionate. “My dad didn’t come to France just because he spoke the language. He could have gone to Switzerland, or Belgium. But he came here because he recognized himself in these values.”

Taïa, like many Muslims in France, had been offended by the implication that after Charlie Hebdo it was incumbent on him to show that he was “a good Muslim”— an unthreatening, if not actually equal, member of French society. “I was angry after Charlie Hebdo about many things, including France,” he instructed me. The newest assaults had had a unique impact: “Now I am désespéré ”—despairing on the prospect of extra terror.

A decade in the past, one in all Taïa’s nephews in Morocco had been radicalized, recruited on the road by a preacher of jihad. The boy’s father had taken his son to the police, however since no crime had been dedicated, he was launched. After his mentor was arrested, the boy returned to a extra regular life, although he was nonetheless way more spiritual than his dad and mom or siblings.

Taïa’s nephew had been fifteen when he started to point out indicators of extremism. The total household was baffled. “So young,” Taïa stated. I famous that Friday’s attackers have been all males of their twenties, and that they focused locations standard with individuals in the identical age group. Taïa sipped his tea, pondering it over. “And they were brothers,” he stated: the Abdeslams; the Kaouchis, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath; and, in Boston, the Tsarnaevs. “I don’t know what it means, but it struck me.”

When I requested Taïa why he needed to remain in France, regardless of all its difficulties, his eyes grew brilliant. “I want to stay here because the fight has meaning for me here,” he stated. Through his writing, he may hope to push for change in French society in a means he couldn’t in Morocco. “I always have the feeling that I am fighting physically,” he stated. “It’s a real thing I’m doing.”

Taïa’s most up-to-date novel was revealed the day after the Charlie Hebdo killings. “Un Pays pour Mourir”—“A Country to Die In”—tells the story of two North African prostitutes in Barbès, one in all whom is a transgender girl. “They are living in the heart of Paris, Barbès, and yet they don’t exist for France,” he stated. He was pondering of writing a thriller subsequent, a few Maghrébin serial killer.

“There is a real, catastrophic self-hatred in France,” Matthieu instructed me. We had been speaking in his condominium for greater than an hour. A pal was due at any minute, to drive him to Normandy; he wanted to get away for just a few days. Soon, he deliberate to go away Paris for good. Even earlier than the assaults, he had develop into fed up with town. He needed to stop his job and transfer again to Bordeaux, the place he grew up. His need to go residence stunned me—his dad and mom had hardly been involved for the reason that information. His father had despatched him a textual content message earlier that day; his mom e-mailed him whereas he was within the hospital to inform him that he ought to get sick go away.

Matthieu had his causes for returning to Bordeaux. He recalled a line from Michel Houellebecq’s newest novel, “Submission,” during which the narrator decides to go away Paris for the southwest following the rise of a French Islamic get together: “It was a region where they ate duck confit, and duck confit struck me as incompatible with civil war.” Matthieu smiled wryly. “It’s true that terrorism and the southwest are incompatible. Things move more slowly there. And the decadence of the provinces is less advanced than it is in Paris, where it’s always on the cutting edge.”

I requested him what he meant by “decadence.”

“To me, ‘decadence’ is objective,” he stated. “It’s not a value judgment. It’s the fact that France, bit by bit, doesn’t believe in anything in common anymore. Anyone could tell you that.” Regional elections have been developing in just a few weeks, and, like many individuals, Matthieu was apprehensive that the assaults would imply a significant victory for Marine Le Pen, the chief of the extreme-right Front National, which may make her a formidable candidate within the 2017 Presidential election. “What I’m really afraid of is that either everyone will rally around the values of the Front National or there won’t be any rallying around anything.”

I remembered that when Matthieu and I first met we’d mentioned our upbringings, and faith had come up. His household was Catholic, however I couldn’t keep in mind if he was spiritual.

“I’m more agnostic than Catholic, though I come from the Catholic culture,” he stated. “In any case, this isn’t really a moment when I’m thinking about religion. When I think about religion, I always think about it in connection with what’s beautiful, what’s good. But never in connection with evil. I just don’t see the connection.” ♦


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