Netflix recommendation: November 13: Attack on Paris.
I need to tell you about a 3 part series on Netflix which is a MUST watch.
My viewing recommendation has to come with a warning.
I was supposed to have a day working today but this morning I watched all 3 episodes one after the other. And I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed - more than I remember having cried in a very long time.
This 3 part Netflix documentary series, "November 13: Attack on Paris" is about the terrorist attacks that happened in Paris on Friday 13th November 2015.
I think I have led a fairly sheltered life. I know awful and violent things happen all around the world every day. And every single awful terrorist attack deserves the attention I am giving the Paris one here and now. But this is the terrorist attack that was on my doorstep, and so just short of 3 years later, this is the one about which I want to write. I have zero intention to be political here. This is about humanity. For me this is cathartic.
I lived in Paris on 13th November 2015 when the Paris attacks happened. Well, actually, no. I lived in a village in a suburb of Paris. And I am so glad I did.
I will never forget the Paris attacks. The immediate gut wrenching fear I felt for our friends and colleagues living in the city, initially, my worry was consumed by them. Afterwards, feeling selfish that I hadn’t initially felt so worried about all of the others involved. The ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY people killed, including 89 in the Bataclan, and FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN injured (according to Wikipaedia). And then sharing the city/country/world wide grief, and the pride in the Parisians bravery and fortitude.
Listening and watching and reading as the events unfolded, knowing that it was all happening just half an hour down the road was sickening. Knowing my friends lived close by to the attack locations, might have been out drinking at the bars, watching a friendily football game at Stade de France, or might have been in the Bataclan…
The following morning was one of the most surreal of my life. My family got up and had breakfast. My, then, baby and toddler exuding innocence and their usual bubbly happiness they always did on every other day after 12 hours of unbroken, unworried sleep. Life must go on. They helped immeasurably.
I don’t remember what we had planned for that morning. But the gunmen were on the run and there wasn’t a chance in hell we were leaving the house. Even in our quiet village. We spent the morning outside playing and cleaning our bikes, together. I have a photo of my little family from that morning, and it looks like an idyllic peaceful family scene. Every time I look at that photo all I can remember is the sort of strange numb unreal feeling I had, and imagine the bloodshed from the night before.
I thought about how I felt lucky to feel safe where we lived. We invited good friends who lived very centrally in Paris, with young children, to come and play in the garden with us. To escape, for as long as they wanted. They came. The weather was glorious, so it must have been on the Sunday. It was a welcome distraction for us all I think.
Over that weekend sharing disbelief and emotions with my friends, both inside and outside the city, was cathartic. The raw accounts, experiences, and emotions of members of an online english speaking expats living in Paris group provided a supportive community. Then learning that a family in the neighbouring village lost a father/husband made my stomach drop yet again. Then every other personal story that was shared provoked the same feeling. But, the fortitude of Parisians, the support given, and the “we will NOT let them win” attitude that seemed to kick in so very soon afterwards was remarkable. Everyone had a different and personal limit of where, when and how they felt comfortable, but I found that most people seemed to generally feel the same.
For many many months there was a constant reminder. Aside from the police and army presence, and other attacks that took place in France. On the smallest local level for me were the metal fence barriers in place outside the public buildings in our village and everywhere; like the post office, Mairie (town hall) and schools. I understand the rationale, but the deterrent always felt somewhat futile to me. If a terrorist was going to gun down people, or strap on a suicide vest, a moveable metal barrier wasn’t going to stop them.
The following summer my husband and I had tickets to a huge outdoor Muse concert on the Champs de Mars (the large gardens that are at the foot of the Eiffel Tower). Of course we had a conversation before we bought the tickets about the risk of a terrorist attack at such a big music event in such an iconic location. We were not going to let them win. But it would be untruthful to say that leaving the children at home that evening with a babysitter didn't take a lot of thinking about, given where we were going.
At the concert we went as far in and forward as we could. It was ram packed. I haven't been to many huge events like this, and had never been in such a confined space at one. Everyone around us was friendly and jovial. When the music started I had barely enough room in front of me to clap my hands. Being short I could see very little, but it was still amazing as I could enjoy the music, atmosphere, and light show, and see some of the big screens of course. The thought went through my mind that if something happened, this was it. In living our lives by not wanting terrorists to rule with fear, we had chosen to put ourselves in a situation which would have meant an almost certain "game over" for us if the unspeakable had happened. That was sobering but I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and enjoyed the moment. They would not win.
We also went to a few other big iconic events in Paris during the rest of our years living there - the Tour de France on the Champs Elysée each year, other concerts, sports games and events; we drank on bar terraces and visited friends in the city. As did all of our local friends. Life went on for most of us, some sooner than others as their confidence and comfort levels in the city restored. But the shadow of those attacks changed Paris forever.
If this is how I remember it, my heart cannot cope at the thought of people actually involved, and directly affected by the Paris attacks. I don’t think I have the emotional capacity to even begin to imagine what it must have been like. I tried when I watched this Netflix documentary series, but I can only sympathise, not empathise. And shed some tears.
Watching this documentary, hearing the accounts from those involved; the police, the pompiers (firemen), the politicians, and I just still cannot fully compute the accounts from the hostages; in the Stade de France, the bars, cafes and restaurants, the Bataclan… leaves me speechless. Like someone has knocked the stuffing out of me, all over again.
If I tried to tell you more about the documentary here, I would fail to do it justice. It was a horrific evening for Paris, and this series of interviews and footage is incredibly moving...
...you must watch it for yourself. (There are subtitles).
It doesn't matter if you don't have a connection with Paris. We are all human beings. Watch it:
But fear must not win.