Parisians Wake to City at `War' After Coordinated Terror Strikesby and
Department stores to landmarks shut as daily life disrupted
`It could have been me, my friends, my relatives' student says
The second massive terror strike in the heart of Paris in less than a year has left residents shell-shocked and groping for answers.
The streets of the French capital were eerily quiet following attacks that left at least 127 dead in near-simultaneous assaults on cafes, a soccer match and a concert hall. For visitors and inhabitants, the after-effects rippled through the city. Department stores and cinemas were shut along with Disneyland Paris, while landmarks such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe turned away tourists.
“Everyone has this question in mind: what is going to happen next?” said Flora Erbibou, a 23-year-old law student who’s lived most of her life in the Canal Saint Martin neighborhood, where shootings occurred Friday night. “How do you counter this kind of attack?”
President Francois Hollande imposed a state of emergency and blamed Islamic State for the coordinated strikes, describing them as an “act of war.” The attacks follow 17 murders the French suffered at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket in January.
The attackers targeted the eastern part of the city, away from well-known tourist sites, in the hip neighborhood along the canal and near Republique square. Young Parisians flock on the weekend to the area’s bars, restaurants and venues like the Bataclan concert hall, where more than 80 people were killed.
Republique was in the international spotlight in January when it became a rallying point for Parisians after the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which were about three quarters of a mile away from the square and just 600 yards from the Bataclan. Hundreds of people gathered Saturday afternoon at the base of the statue at the center of Republique to honor the victims of Friday’s strikes.
The neighborhood was for decades a diverse, working-class area dotted with metal- and woodworking shops. While it’s gentrified rapidly in recent years, the diversity is still on display: Near the shooting site at Casa Nostra restaurant in the 11th district, a mosque attracts men in north African garb to prayers, while 200 yards away a kosher grocery serves the area’s Orthodox Jewish community.
"I can hardly believe that it happened in places that are so familiar," said Erbibou. “It could have been me, my friends, my relatives.”
Police stood watch at the sites of Friday night’s attacks. The street around Casa Nostra was blocked to pedestrians and cars. Nearby, in the 10th district, passersby laid flowers outside Le Carillon bar, a block from the canal, and Le Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian restaurant across the street. Parts of the street were cordoned off where sand had been thrown down to soak up the blood of shooting victims.
Across the street, at the Saint Louis Hospital, about 100 people waited to donate blood for shooting victims. A doctor began asking would-be donors to come back another day, saying the hospital’s needs had been met.
At La Cote Sauvage, a creperie in Montparnasse, manager Christophe Aubineau and his wife hesitated to open after the attacks, and when they did were braced for a lack of visitors. Instead, they ended up with more customers than on a regular Saturday since the three closest restaurants remained shuttered, as did the Luxembourg gardens nearby.
"The attacks are all people want to talk about," Aubineau said. "You sense that people are stern, a little shocked, and definitely not eating as much as usual. I’ve just had three tables say they’re not hungry after what happened."