Terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 left the city reeling. Death and destruction ricocheted across the city from a lively soccer game in the Stade de France to the packed Bataclan theater. Since then, French president Francois Hollande has put the nation under a state of emergency, closed land borders and increased security both within the city and at international airports.
High-school French teacher Richard Day was especially upset by the news of the attacks because he knows well the location of the deadliest attack – the Bataclan theater.
On a trip to Paris in 2013, Day stayed in the 11th Arrondissement, the same neighborhood as the theater.
“It’s really quite surreal,” Day said. “I remember strolling down those streets, visiting cafes in the same neighborhood and eating along the Canal St. Martin, the same canal those restaurants are built around.”
He said the 10th and 11th Arrondissements, where the majority of the attacks happened, are up-and-coming districts popular with the bobo, a shortened form of bourgeois boheme, or hipster.
“The terrorists obviously knew what they were doing,” Day said.
“Those neighborhoods are the hottest place to be in Paris. They are the main core for Paris’s youth. Paris is a late-night city, and those areas are really popular for nightlife, even in the off-season. ISIS didn’t just attack Paris. They attacked France’s future generation.”
Jefferson Caves, ’12, is on a George Washington University study abroad program in Paris. However, Caves was traveling in Copenhagen, Denmark, when the attacks occurred.
“One-fifth of my program is going back to the U.S. for the rest of the semester,” Caves said.
“Mostly, it’s because parents are concerned for their children.”
But Caves has decided to remain in Paris.
Caves said the mood in Paris is defiant.
“Eating out at cafes, drinking at bars, and going to concerts have become a sign that life will continue,” Caves said.
“The French pride themselves on being unafraid, and people are talking about not letting the attacks change their views or actions, because that is precisely the aim of the terrorists.”
Jessica Laskey, ’04, lived in Paris for the past year and spent a lot of time at the Stade de France, outside of which three suicide bombers blew themselves up after they couldn’t gain access to the soccer match inside.
“When my husband and I went to see previous matches, we would often comment to each other about how simple the security system seemed and how frightening it would be if anything terrible ever happened while in attendance at a game,” Laskey said.
“When we were in Paris, the city was at a high terrorism threat level due to France’s involvement in Syria and, eventually, the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper.”
While Day has never visited the Stade de France, he has attended a show at the Bataclan theater.
“It’s also only about a mile away from the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the location of the January shooting,” Day said.
Day said that Parisians are still recovering from the Charlie Hebdo attack, but that this attack is even more threatening.
“Charlie Hebdo was an atrocity, but the people attacked were also satirical cartoonists with a penchant for provocative topics like depicting the prophet Mohammed,” he said.
“This recent attack – this is France’s September 11th.”
Day added that the victims of the recent attacks were very different.
“These people who were killed, they weren’t in the public eye,” he said.
“They were innocent Parisians going about their business, and if anything, it shows that ISIS can and will strike indiscriminately without concern for whether the people they attack are targets or not.
“President Hollande said it correctly: ‘France is at war.’”
—By Manson Tung