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Man Who Rescued Pregnant Woman During Bataclan Attack Recounts Ordeal

In an interview with the French daily La Provence, the man — who is known only as "Sébastien" — described what happened after gunmen stormed the Bataclan concert hall during the terror attacks in Paris.

by VICE News
Nov 17 2015, 4:50pm

Screenshot via Le Monde

A man who saved a pregnant woman who was left dangling from a window ledge after attackers stormed the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on Friday has described his experience to a French newspaper.

In an interview with the French daily La Provence, the man — a resident of the southern French city of Arles who is known only as "Sébastien" — said he showed up at the venue around 8pm to attend the Eagles of Death Metal concert. Sébastien and his friend Jeff had just moved from the bar to the front of the stage when the first shots rang out.

"That was maybe our first stroke of luck," he said. "When they fired the first shot, we all thought it was pyrotechnics. Then when the second shot was fired, we understood."

Sébastien told La Provence that when the lights went on in the theater, he saw "two or three guys armed with Kalashnikovs" near the entrance. The men were firing shots into the crowd indiscriminately, he said, targeting those who were at the bar first.

He crawled toward the backstage area hoping to find an exit. Since there was no way to escape from behind the stage, he climbed up the stairs to the balcony area, where there were two windows.

"At one of them, a pregnant woman was begging those below to catch her if she jumped," he recalled. "It was chaos below, too. I climbed out of the other window and clung on to an air vent, fifteen meters (50 feet) above the ground. I held on for five minutes and then the pregnant woman, who was exhausted, asked me to help her get back inside. That's what I did."

Sébastien told the paper he had no idea what happened to the woman after he pulled her back inside. He tried to hide but was subsequently found by one of the attackers and held hostage, along with 15 or so other concert-goers. The men, who spoke French, said they belonged to the Islamic State.

"From the balcony above, terrorists were shooting at the people downstairs," he said. "We heard screams, like people being tortured. They said, 'We're here to make you endure what innocent people are enduring in Syria. Do you hear the screams, the suffering?' "

Sébastien described the moment when one of the attackers handed him a roll of 50-euro banknotes and told him to set fire to it. 

"They wanted to know if money was important to me," he said.

The attackers then asked the hostages to call French news broadcasters BFM TV and Itélé to connect them with reporters. They also wanted to speak to the police and posted Sébastien at one of the windows, instructing him to yell if anyone approached the building.

"They told us to say they had explosive belts on and that if the police approached, they'd blow everything up. But they didn't," he said. "I only saw their Kalashnikovs — one of them patched up with black tape — and a bag of ammunition. They didn't seem very organized. They spoke to the negotiator using one of the hostages' phones. They had no requests except for the withdrawal of law enforcement."

Sébastien said the men then threatened to kill one hostage every five minutes and to toss the bodies out of the window. Eventually, they agreed to let the emergency crews in for 20 minutes to remove the wounded.

"Then we waited. The longest minutes of my life," he remarked. "I went through all the emotions, hope, then the acceptance of death, even though I was closing my eyes to not see it, to not see the Kalashnikov aimed at me."

Eventually, a French SWAT team stormed the Bataclan, breaking down the door with a battering ram and throwing stun grenades into the hall to disorient the attackers.

"The grenade exploded and propelled me under the battering ram. Then the entire RAID [SWAT] team walked over [me]," Sébastien remembered. "I got trampled, but it was the happiest pain I've ever experienced. I was protected. Like my friend Jeff, with whom I was reunited later, I was alive."

Frans Torreele, a friend of the pregnant woman, told the Huffington Post that the woman and her baby are also doing well. 

"Soon after, she wanted to thank all those who had reached out to her, particularly the man who quickly held out his hand as he was fleeing and helped her back up," said Torreele.

On Sunday, Torreele reached out on Twitter to try and find the woman's rescuer, and she and Sébastien have since been in touch.