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'I Knew to Get Up and Run': The Haunting Remnants of the Attacks in Paris

We spoke to a woman who was inside a restaurant in the French capital when gunmen opened fire, and documented the aftermath of the attacks across the city.

by Rachel Browne and Pierre Longeray
Nov 14 2015, 8:00pm

Foto di Etienne Rouillon

It was around 9:30 Friday night when a young woman and her friend took a seat near the front windows at Le Petit Cambodge, in Paris' 10th arrondissement. They weren't supposed to be there — the pair picked the restaurant over a bar at the last minute.

Suddenly, a flurry of gunfire came through the glass, shards just grazing the 24-year-old's face. She and her friend slammed themselves to the ground under the table and waited. They didn't see the assailants.

She heard the sounds of guns being reloaded and says they were directed at her and the other diners. She saw the woman next to her had been shot and was surrounded by a pool of blood. Later, she would be carried out to an ambulance.

Then, when the shooting was over, a short time later, she and her friend got up and ran out. They were the first ones to do so.

"It was just an instinct," the woman, who didn't want her name used, told VICE News. "It was like no one could help anyone, I couldn't think of what to do. Except I knew to get up and run."

She made it home safely and got an hour of sleep. "I took some painkillers and my adrenaline was pumping all night," she said. Today, she feels more numb than anything and more detached from what happened every time she retells the story. "I feel sad that I don't feel very sad right now. I'm confused. But I sense devastation."

Related: Islamic State Calls France One of Its 'Principal Targets' in Statement Claiming Paris Attacks

The day after the deadly attacks, the weight of the pall of silence over the French capital changed with the neighborhood. 

In front of Notre-Dame or of the Eiffel Tower or near the Louvre, tourists took selfies as usual, as soldiers stood on alert patrol around them. But in the rest of the city the streets were empty and whatever traffic there was flowed easily, a most unusual sight on a Saturday afternoon in Paris.

Near Place Vendôme, close to the Louvre this morning, business seemed to go on as usual with packed streets, kids riding bicycles, and a lot of people outside, drinking coffees. 

'It was like no one could help anyone, I couldn't think of what to do. Except I knew to get up and run.'

"There is nothing left for us here," a Swiss tourist told VICE News. Last night he was warned by a friend over the phone about the attacks, then he and his wife were locked down in their hotel. They are trying to get back home on the next plane.

At the sites of Friday night's onslaught, silence reigned — except for the area around the Bataclan theater, where the world's media was camping out and doing live shots. What was a bar or a restaurant yesterday turned overnight into a crime scene, and today into a place of mourning. Some people cried; others left flowers and lit candles. Bullet holes in the windows of the cafés still speak of the extreme violence of the coordinated attacks.

Related: Why the Islamic State Attacked Paris — And What Happens Next

Police buses drove in convoys through a stilled Paris. Many stores were closed; only a few were open today, but almost no one ventured in. Gatherings and any kind of demonstration have been forbidden by the authorities, for reasons of security – and yet, some Parisians were assembled on Place de la République, the same square where people gathered in solidarity not even a year ago, after the attack on Charlie Hebdo on January 7. In this now-symbolic place, anonymous Parisians have tagged a wall with the city's Latin motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur — "Tossed by the waves, yet will not sink."

The 24-year-old woman at Le Petit Cambodge has lived in Paris for 18 months and was here during the Charlie Hebdo attacks. She never thought this would happen again and never thought she would fear living in Paris. "It feels like a strange coincidence, like this isn't really my life," she said. "I'm just shocked." 

And she says Paris seems different this time compared to after Charlie Hebdo. 

"There's more trepidation this time," she said. "People understand what it means now, whereas they might not have before. This time, it's different."

All photos by Etienne Rouillon

Arriving on Rue Bichat, where the restaurant Le Petit Cambodge and the bar Le Carillon, both hit Friday night, are, police patrol as people mourn. More than ten people were killed here.

On Rue Bichat, in front of Le Carillon, sand is hiding the blood of the victims.

A man kneels and kisses the ground after pouring water on it, in front of an improvised memorial in front of Le Petit Cambodge.

Bullet impacts at the Carillon show the violence of the attackers, who used automatic weapons. 

Parisians have come mourn in front of Le Petit Cambodge. Expressions are somber, the silence heavy. Some break down in sobs as they arrive where they have lost a friend or a loved one.

A young woman has just left flowers in front of Le Petit Cambodge, a restaurant in an area of Paris thick with public establishments, where many come relax on weekends.

Votive lights in front of Le Petit Cambodge.

An improvised mourning place in front of the Bataclan, where people line up to leave flowers, some words or a candle. More than 70 have been killed at the concert hall.

On this Saturday, the neighborhood of the Bataclan is sealed off. Investigators work as mayor Anne Hidalgo, her expression grave, gets into a car.

Media outlets from all over the world have set up shop in front of the Bataclan, doing live shots in Russian, German or Japanese, one after the other.

The American rock band Eagles of Death Metal was onstage when the attackers opened fire. The Bataclan is a historic concert hall that's been around since 1865.

In front of the Belle Équipe bar on rue de Charonne, dozens line up to leave flowers near the place where almost 20 people have been killed. Young and old alike sob in one another's arms. Others use their phones to take pictures of the bullet holes in the front of the bakery by the bar.

In front of Notre-Dame, a guide explains the history of the church to some tourists.

In the heart of Paris, tourists take pictures with one of the symbols of the city, the cathedral of Notre-Dame.

Troops patrol in front of the church of Notre-Dame, where hundreds of tourists are gathered.

A member of the gendarmerie in front of the Tour Eiffel, which is closed to the public, like all museums in Paris. Tourists still come and take photos as soldiers patrol the Champ de Mars grounds nearby.

On Place de la République, which has turned into a symbol after the attacks of last January, anonymous Parisians have tagged a wall with the city's Latin motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur – "Tossed by the waves, yet will not sink."

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