'Then they started firing': Eyewitness accounts in wake of Paris attacks
Published Friday, November 13, 2015 7:51PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 14, 2015 9:13AM EST
As deadly terror attacks unfolded in Paris on Friday night, numerous witnesses who escaped the carnage were able to share their stories. Here are some of them:
Victor Boyko lives three doors down from the Bataclan and arrived home “a few minutes” after the initial shooting. He shared this video from the scene:
Boyko told CTV News Channel:
“Once I got out of the metro, it was (apparent) something is going wrong. Too many police cars, too many police trying to force people into cafes.”
“There was silence for about half an hour,” he added. “Then the police started to bring people, every walking person on the street, was brought in for questioning. I actually saw some people held at gunpoint until they could describe who they are.”
Boyko said his area is normally filled with tourists and considered safe. “What’s happening now for people living here is just horrible.”
Frédéric Nowak, 49, had driven in from Seine-et-Marne outside Paris to attend the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan when the violence erupted. He told The Guardian:
“The gig had been going for around 30 minutes. I heard the shots but I thought it was a noise that was linked to the show. I saw two people with Kalashnikovs. One I saw from behind, the other I saw from the front and he wasn’t wearing a mask. They were just stood firing at random into the crowd,” he told the Guardian.
“It was terrifying. There was lots of screaming, lots of panic, lots of blood. People threw themselves to the ground but then they just started firing at random at the people on the ground. That was when I thought we had to get out. We were around five metres from the stage, so we hid behind a speaker, then we ran backstage to the dressing rooms. We could still hear rounds and rounds of gunfire as we ran up flights of stairs and someone forced a trap door open onto the roof. A man from a neighbouring building took us into his apartment. There were 40 of us in the flat. We heard the shots. Later we heard the load bang of the police assault. I was separated from my son who was in a different apartment and I now just want to find him.”
Xavier Barret, a sports photographer for L’Equippe, was at the Stade de France for soccer match between France and Germany with his 19-year-old daughter and his five-year-old son when three targeted explosions erupted near the stadium. Barret witnessed the blasts and told The Guardian he’d “never heard this kind of noise in the stadium.”
At half-time, Barret said, people began to tell him “there’s big trouble in the centre of Paris, people dead.
“I tried to text my daughter, tell her be careful, stay in the stadium at the end of the game, we will be together … she tells me, ‘OK’,” he said.
Barret took a series of photos of fans streaming onto the field, which were later posted to Facebook.
In a Tweet, Barret said he had been reunited with his children. “I’ve found my daughter and the little one,” he wrote. “Thank you for your messages to the French security forces.”
Others who attended the match, such as Laurent Lachand, said they didn’t know it was an attack until Hollande was evacuated.
“We heard, in three minutes, two big explosions, but we understood isn’t not in the stadium,” he told CTV News Channel. “At the moment … we don’t have the impression that it’s an attack. We think it’s a problem with the fans. It was just after that when we say … Francois Hollande was leaving the stadium and go to the protected area inside the stadium.”
Marc Coupris was freed from the Bataclan concert hall where dozens of hostages were being held. He told The Guardian:
“It was carnage. It looked like a battlefield, there was blood everywhere, there were bodies everywhere. I was at the far side of the hall when shooting began. There seemed to be at least two gunmen. They shot from the balcony. Everyone scrabbled to the ground. I was on the ground with a man on top of me and another one beside me up against a wall. We just stayed still like that. At first we kept quiet. I don’t know how long we stayed like that, it seemed like an eternity. I saw my last final unfurl before me, I thought this was the end. I thought I’m finished, I’m finished. I was terrified. We must all have thought the same. Eventually, when a few gendarmes came in slowly we began to look up and there was blood absolutely everywhere. The police told us to run.”
Julien Pearce, also a spectator at the Bataclan concert hall,said he got a good look at the gunmen and could tell how planned and deliberate the attacks were.
“Everybody was on the floor covering their head and we heard so many gunshots,” he told CTV News Channel. “The terrorists were very calm, very determined. It looked like terror attacks and it could be the worst ever in Paris.”
Pearce later tweeted a photo of the Eagles of Death Metal performing at the concert with the caption:“9:46 p.m.: A few seconds later, the horror.”
Henry Francois Gelot, a Montreal-based band manager, had just arrived in Paris as part of a music tour.
Originally from France, Gelot described the scene on the street after the attacks to CTV News Channel.
“There’s not one soul on the street, and if we do, it’s someone running,” he said. “It’s kind of a…traumatizing situation that we’re living right now. I’m originally from France, so it’s always something that touches me to come back to this city. And it’s kind of a bad coincidence for us to finish a tour and to see these traumatic scenes right in front of our eyes the second we stumbled into the city.”
Jerome Boucer was also inside the Bataclan. He told The Guardian:
“The concert had started. I was in the audience and I heard what sounded like a firecracker. It was loud but the gig was very loud and I thought it was something that was part of the show. I think lots of people did, too. Then they started firing. I saw what I thought was at least two people, then I fled. The exits were clearly marked and I just ran. There were wounded, there was a lot of blood. Blood everywhere.”
Psychotherapist Mark Colclough, a 43-year-old British-Danish citizen, told The Guardian he was about 20 metres away from one of the attacks that took place at a café.
“We were about 20 metres away from the cafe when we heard a firecracker and I looked around and I could see a man, maybe 185 centimetres tall, and the position made it clear he was shooting.” Colclough described the gunman firing “professional bursts of three or four shots” into the crowd.
“He killed three or four individuals who were sitting in the chairs in front of the cafe. We saw them get shot down. They fell off their chairs onto the ground.”
Colclough managed to escape the scene unharmed, but later returned, accompanied by police.
“To my surprise, we were taken back into the cafe by police. It was pretty horrific. We could see people, who were either wounded or severely wounded or dead. Maybe 10 or a dozen,” he said. “It was horrendous. There was blood everywhere. And the one thing that struck me was about the blood in the movies and the blood in real life.”
Ben Grant, who was in a bar near another shooting location, told BBC:
“There are lots of dead people. It's pretty horrific to be honest... I was at the back of the bar. I couldn't see anything. I heard gunshots. People dropped to the ground. We put a table over our heads to protect us. We were held up in the bar because there was a pile of bodies in front of us."
A France 24 journalist told the network:
“I was having a meal with my friend and was sitting right at the window when there was numerous gunshots directed at the window towards the restaurant that we were eating in. We immediately dropped to the floor with the other diners and we were there for maybe one minute lying on the floor and we continued to hear numerous gunshots.”