Once he heard the gunfire stop, Matthieu made his way back to the restaurant. “I saw a lot of women dead on the ground,” he said, his voice catching on the “f” of “femmes.” “It was mostly women that I saw.” He found one of his friends, a Brazilian studying in Paris, lying in the middle of the street. She had been seated across from him, and was shot in the chest. Matthieu sat on the ground and held her legs, feeling her shallow breathing. She would survive.
People were running through the streets in an eruption of panic, shouting as the police arrived and tried to establish order. The scene couldn’t be secured; Matthieu worried that the shooters might return. Next to him, a man without injuries held his girlfriend’s lifeless body in his arms. Then, without warning, he ran off. The woman was about twenty-five and very beautiful. Matthieu searched for words to describe her perfect, uncanny stillness. […]
Last week’s victims were normal people doing normal Parisian things: eating and drinking together, going out at night to hear a concert or watch a soccer game. After a few days, the rhythm of Parisian life returned, but a new fatalism hung in the air. People seemed resigned to the idea that more attacks would happen, maybe soon. […]
I remembered that when Matthieu and I first met we’d discussed our upbringings, and religion had come up. His family was Catholic, but I couldn’t remember if he was religious. “I’m more agnostic than Catholic, though I come from the Catholic culture,” he said. “In any case, this isn’t really a moment when I’m thinking about religion. When I think about religion, I always think about it in connection with what’s beautiful, what’s good. But never in connection with evil. I just don’t see the connection.”
~ Alexandra Schwartz, Letter from Paris: The Long Night. Terrorist attacks and a city changed.
Illustration: Arc De Triomphe by Christoph Riemann in The New Yorker