In Paris, a night disrupted by terror

Instantly we are scanning Twitter, calling out estimates of the dead

Pamela Druckerman November 14, 2015


It is a perfectly normal dinner party until someone stands up, checks his phone, and says: I think there’s been an explosion, at the Stade de France.

My husband is not at the dinner because he is at the Stade de France as a journalist. Everyone runs for their phones. I say something I’ve never said before at a Parisian dinner party:

Could we turn on the TV?

Soon people are staring at their phones and calling out the names of familiar places: Le Cambodge restaurant — the hipster noodle shop near the Canal St.-Martin. I passed near there on my way to dinner. (Later we’d hear that the shooting happened at Le Petit Cambodge, its annex.) Apparently there are hostages at Le Bataclan, the concert hall that I walked by at 5 p.m., to take my son to the eye doctor. There was a huge white concert bus out front.

Paris attacks kill more than 100, police say; border controls tightened

No one on French TV — or any TV channel we turn to — knows what’s happening. But dinner-party guests are scanning Twitter, and calling out various estimates of the number of people killed. How could anyone know? We can’t even find a camera showing images from Le Bataclan, where dozens of people are being held hostage.

I reach my husband on his phone. He is inside the Stade de France, tweeting and being interviewed on Dutch radio. An hour later I hear him on the BBC, explaining that even after the explosions, the match played on, and the fans cheered French goals and did “the wave” in the stadium.

A friend in New York who did security training sees on Twitter that my husband is inside the stadium. He texts me instructions about what to do in the event of a shooting: “Stay as flat to ground as possible. If he has to move, crawl low.” I email this to my husband. He usually thinks I’m excessively cautious. Will he think this time?

Someone looks up what was playing at Le Bataclan. It was Eagles of Death Metal, a band from California.

A couple from the dinner party are trying to reach their teenage children. I call my babysitter. I text my brother. I reply to a kind message from a man I know only from Twitter. Two other dinner-party guests get text messages from their exes.

“This is worse than Charlie Hebdo,” I say to the room of people, who until a few minutes ago were eating pasta with wild boar and sampling some marzipan. Apparently the scale of it was already obvious to everyone else. Le Bataclan is in the same neighborhood as Charlie Hebdo’s former offices.

A map comes on the television, showing the sites of two shootings. My home is on the other side of those two sites. Once again, it’s not just Paris that’s in the news — it’s my Paris. They’re some of the Right Bank “bobo” neighborhoods, former working-class districts now overrun by “bourgeois bohemians” like us.

French people are tweeting #portesouvertes, to help people stranded on the streets. We all agree that this sounds nuts: Who would open their doors right now? The news says the gunmen are still on the loose. Police are warning people not to go outside.

My hostess makes up some extra beds for the night. The couple from the dinner party are trying to figure out whether they can drive home, west of Paris. Their kids are fine, but now they’re home alone. My husband is still inside the stadium.

The French president, who was also at the stadium for the France-Germany match, says France’s borders are closed. Apparently schools will be closed too. I learn the French word for curfew: couvre-feu. On the news they’re reporting that many people have died inside Le Bataclan. The numbers are unfathomable.

My kids are asleep. Their babysitter isn’t. All I keep thinking is: What will I tell them when they wake up?

This article appeared on The New York Times, a partner of The Express Tribune 


Raju | 6 years ago | Reply Tragic Incident. Being a Pakistani Muslim, I strongly condemn this heinous act of terror and pray for the safety of people over there in Paris. We passed through these terror attacks in our country and we know what this pain is. Stay safe
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