Michel Catalano was expecting a delivery last Friday morning at his printing plant in Dammartin-en-Goële, a town to the northeast of Paris, when he heard the bell ring. What the printing company’s chief executive did not expect, he later told The Telegraph, was to see an armed man standing right outside:
In front of my business there is a window, and at the bottom of it I saw that there was a man with a rocket launcher and a Kalashnikov. I saw immediately that we were in a dangerous situation. So I came back and went to my employee, Lilian, to tell him to hide. I turned back towards [the gunmen], knowing that the both of us could not hide. I swear I thought that was the end, that it was all over, finished.
Catalano went on to describe how the Kouachi brothers—the two men who killed 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday—entered his plant without aggression, telling him not to worry. Catalano ended up offering them coffee and tended to one of the brother’s wounds. Ultimately, he spent an hour with his captors, while his colleague Lilian texted the police details of the scene inside the plant.
“I was never scared, because I had only one idea in my head,” Catalano told the AP. “‘They should not go to the end (of the hallway) to see Lilian, that’s all.’ That’s what kept me calm.”
The businessman’s story of survival was not the only one to grab the world’s attention in recent weeks. On the same day Catalano was released and the Kouachi brothers killed, more than a dozen people were held hostage in a kosher supermarket in Paris by a man named Amedy Coulibaly, who fatally shot four and had lined the store with explosives. (Many of the hostages hid in a dark basement while the situation was ongoing, for about four hours.) Just a month ago, in Sydney, a gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State held 18 people hostage in a Lindt chocolate café for 16 hours. Dramatic videos showed several of the hostages escaping throughout the afternoon, before police stormed the site.