by Andy Weddington
Monday, 16 November 2015
"Terrorism has no nationality or religion." Vladimir Putin
Last evening, courtesy of the Marine and Navy friends network, the following first-hand account of Friday evening's attack in Paris was sent to me.
Names removed but otherwise not edited though broken up for ease of reading.
Came home ~21:30 my time. At a crossroad, two people lying in the street with a firemen truck, tons of people around them, and a woman yelling someone was going to die. Thought it was a traffic accident, nothing for me to do, I walk on.
A couple more wounded, people talking about bullets, one guy with light face wound says someone got into that restaurant (excellent Cambodian restaurant, where I order stuff regularly BTW) and shot an AK-47. I find an unattended woman, put her ok, block traffic because idiots were trying to drive down what was obviously a blocked stret.
More police and firemen arrive, shooters left in a car, firing away. My phone's battery suddenly went dead, I get home tell my son to keep on playing LoL and not go out, his sister is at a concert. She says she's ok, concert will last another 2h, I tell her to have the half-dozen male idiots usually drooling around her bring her back home and use the subway (there's a stop right next to my door).
Turn on computer to check the news. News site mentions the stuff - suddenly, someone says "multiple gunshots at the Bataclan" <= the place where the concert was. I go "oh f*ck", grab my son's phone, tell him not to leave, and walk there (15 minutes' walk away).
Can't reach the place, lots of SWAT moving in, I stop ~100m short, leaving my hands visible as lots of armed and clearly trigger-happy security forces around yelling at us to clear the premises. Get into a door. Someone kindly offers me coffee (I grab tea instead), and I spend the next two hours watching on TV and occasionally peeking through the door.
Worried people calling me, some of my son's friends call or text or snapchat or other things I don't understand asking if he's ok. I answer "he's ok I'm his dad I took his phone for the evening pass the word" a few times and they leave me alone.
My daughter hasn't answered her brother's last text, just before I left home. There's firing going on. At some point, as I'm peeking before the police gets me to shut the front door (again :P) I see a gaggle of youth running with their hands up to be gathered by the police. Can't see if mine's there, and I don't want to call in case she's hiding and the call alerts the terrorists.
A bit later, I get her on the phone, she's half hysterical but not wounded, had people dying all over her (I was afraid she'd be trampled in the panic as she's like 1m60 and 47kg). Some of the people in her group might be missing. I can't cross the avenue on the other side of which she is, or go out.
More time spent watching the stuff on TV, President makes a horribly bad speech, more gory details coming in. Shooters fired up, waited for the panicked crowd to gather up, and shot into the mass, reloading several (3?) times. After a while, lots of shots and explosions - they're storming the place - I'm waiting for things to clear, still can't cross that street to where my daughter is, and she'll be "debriefed" (read: interrogated) by the police anyway. I make my way back home so I can gather ID and fetch her when I'm allowed.
So all's well that ends not too badly, as it seems all her party is alive after all. Meeting the parents at the burial would have been hard. It's going to be a long night.
Got the call round 3:30 and ran there. Daughter wrapped in a blanket, blood on her shoes, journalists taking testimonies. She's with a couple of friends, a boy and a girl. The boy's jeans are bloody from lying with his legs on top of someone's busted head, and the journalists want to take pictures of his legs. The kids want to stick together and spend the night at the boy's. The boys' parents are ok with it, so after talking it over, I leave my daughter with them and go home to grab girl underwear, PJs, clothes for two (both girls are the same size, fortunately), toothbrushes, a stuffed panther (turned out I should have taken 3 stuffed animals!), and a bottle of wine. I take a 2000, the year she was born.
We spend about 90 minutes at the boy's parents' while the 3 take turns showering. They use a totally environmentally unfriendly amount of shampoo, so concerned are they about the gore that might be left in their hair. We talk, the youth climb on our lap from time to time, then go back to talking. I get some of the gory details, in every sense of the world.
Both girls were trampled in the panic, which helped save their lives as the people that dropped them were the ones who got shot, and later served as meatshields. Some of these kids took a bloodbath - literally.
The boy jokes he's not going to play zombie FPS anytime soon. I listen to my daughter speaking about staying put, barely able to breathe against someone's ankle without knowing if that one was alive or dead.
About the terrorists firing more or less at random into the mass lying on the floor. About hearing the spatter of bullets around her. About people dying on top of her, and dead bodies dropping from the balconies as well. Then after a really long time, security forces appeared, they looked appalled by the carnage. The youth scrambled out, trying very hard not to look at what exactly it was they were stepping on.
They go to bed at 5:30, and I go home. Our kids have been wounded. The physical wounds are only bruises, with a few scratches from broken glass, but that's not all there was to it. Full recovery will take months, if ever, and that's the good news."
America is next, the enemy has warned.
And I just listened to America's president, Barack Obama, in so many words, surrender.