“It’s changing fast and rents are going up, but I promise you, it’s not all graphic designers and keyboard players in a band here,” the filmmaker Flora Desprats-Colonna, who grew up and lives nearby and is a regular at the Carillon, told me. “In my building I also have cleaners, shop assistants, social workers. There is a real mix, and generally I think we all get on. I think the terrorists attacked here because we are all mixing together. They don’t like that.”
This could be true. The area isn’t on the standard tourist trail, nor is it identified with a single group (like Marais is), but it is cosmopolitan and extremely mixed.
Indeed, among the locals I spoke to, there was a pervasive resistance towards anyone who might reject the mixing that goes on in the quarter—including France’s extreme right. “We are all a bit worried that Marine Le Pen will try to profit from this, to make us hate and fear Muslims,” a student named Alex, who I met laying a flower outside the Casa Nostra pizzeria (and who preferred not to use his last name), told me. “The reality, in fact, is that we are all neighbors and living together okay. And we are all victims of this attack together also.”
So far, this is an attitude echoing across French media. As Didier Péron put it in Monday’s Libération:
By daubing French society in its own blood, Daesh hopes and schemes that it succumbs to a madness symmetrical to their own, pushing it to extremes.
In some ways, that sense of community may have helped spare some lives. As Desprats-Colonna told me, people were contacting and warning each other through social media throughout Friday’s attacks.
“When we first got news of the attacks, I got straight on Facebook to see if anyone I knew was at Le Bataclan,” she said. “Some friends of my boyfriend were in there, and they sent us messages saying that they were sheltering from the shooters. Another friend of mine had a flat looking directly at the theatre. She wrote on my wall to say that a squad was on the roof and that to be safe that’s where people should head. Otherwise they might have been afraid of finding more terrorists on the roof. People still had their phones, so we were able to pass this information on to people in the theatre, who were then able to escape to safety.”
Desprats-Colonna’s friend managed to escape, albeit wounded. The feeling that comes from knowing that so many others didn’t still hung in the air, and despite the busy café terraces, there was an inescapable sense of dignified sadness. Paris is always a more polite city than it’s given credit for, but on Sunday, people in the streets went the extra mile to be helpful, friendly, gracious. In dazzling autumn sunshine it was easy to remember why so many people fall in love with the city.
Still, the air of calm is all too easy to puncture. In the evening, a ripple of panic spread across the Place de la République when people thought they heard gunshots or explosions nearby. With one gunman still at large, crowds poured down the Canal Saint Martin, through an area now riddled with makeshift memorials. My friend and I joined a group sheltering in an apartment building’s passageway, where a kind young woman invited us up to her third-floor flat. As helicopters circled above, rumors came fast: there’s a shooting near the Pompidou Centre, police are chasing the final assailant.
I will never forget the contagious sense of terror for that unsure 15 minutes. From the doorway, I saw people of all sexes and ages and just about every race that Paris is home to, sprinting down the street, fleeing in fear, crying. But it turned out to be a false alarm, one that people recovered from fast, as café shutters were rolled up again and doors unlocked.
This article appears courtesy of CityLab.