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In The Streets of Paris Under Attack

As terror struck Paris, life ground to a halt as terrified civilians took cover and heavily armed soldiers patrolled emtpy streets.
Etienne Rouillon/VICE News

"They're killing us, maybe they're killing my children. I don't know where they are!" says a man, about 50 years old, standing close to the intersection of rue de Charonne and rue de Faidherbe, in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, just steps from where a restaurant window has been blown away by automatic gunfire.

Related: More Than 100 People Dead in Multiple Shootings and Explosions in Paris As Terror Strikes France


"It went ta-ta-ta," say eyewitnesses hiding in the entrance to another restaurant close by, as police secure the perimeter and soldiers with helmets and weapons drawn order passersby to turn back.

At about 10 in the evening, the eyewitnesses say, they heard a burst of gunfire. "Might have lasted five minutes," a woman of about 60 says. A man joins in to say he's seen a dozen people lying on the ground in front of the terrace of the restaurant, a habitual dining place for young Parisians.

As a hostage situations unfolds and news comes in of several attacks on the right bank of the Seine, sirens wail all over Paris. Police and soldiers deploy in the streets to keep passage open for ambulances and firefighter trucks. Law enforcement and the mayor are telling people to stay home.

According to the reports coming in, the attackers have targeted places where people meet in numbers, like concert halls and restaurants. Everybody's scrambling to find out where their loved ones are, but the phone networks are jammed.

People take shelter in the apartments of friends or family, whatever is closest. On social media a hashtag, #portesouvertes or "open doors," begins to spread, inviting Parisians to take in whoever's too afraid to venture out in the streets. Facebook has activated an emergency checkin procedure for its users.

Outside, you see only law enforcement with heavy weaponry, or terrified civilians. A man leans against a barrier, sobbing, as a heavy silence falls, broken only by sirens and the shouted orders from police: "Stand back, don't put yourself in danger!" Motorcycles open a passage for a dozen ambulances; firefighters run behind, others carry stretchers.


Around midnight, two hours after the attacks began, whoever's still outside walks home through empty streets, sticking close to the walls. Ambulances rush back to hospitals. In the streets of Paris, what is left is just silence.

Close to the Louvre, in the heart of Paris, more police sirens wail as couples stroll by as if nothing is wrong. But on nearby rue de Rivoli, the Hotel Brighton is on lockdown.

After hearing reports of attacks across the city, the hotel shut off all the lights in the lobby and locked the front doors.

"I don't want anyone leaving," says Victor, the receptionist and the only person on staff tonight. "It's a war." He says that he hasn't experienced anything like this, but that as a former member of the Russian military, he understands fear and violence.

And he stands by his word. He won't let a reporter go outside, even just to go interview people next door. "I feel responsible for everyone here, for you also," he says.

He gets a call from someone looking to book a room for tonight. "I told them we are fully booked. It sounded like they were stranded somewhere around here."

By 2am, rue de Rivoli is almost entirely deserted except for the odd police car rushing by. At one end of the street, a man frantically tries to call a taxi on his cell phone. "I was trying to get home when I heard about the attacks, and I'm still waiting," he says, holding the phone to his ear, looking up and down the empty street. Then he sees the light of a car turning around the corner. "This might be my chance to get out of here," he says, running towards it.

Follow Etienne Rouillon on Twitter: @rouillonetienne

VICE News journalist Rachel Browne contributed reporting for this story.