Paris’ 11th arrondissement, usually packed with students and partiers, was almost deserted Friday night hours after several terrorists launched multiple attacks in east central Paris and in the northern suburb of Saint Denis, killing more than 120 people. The attacks are the worst acts of terror France has even faced.
Police shut the area and called on residents to stay indoors, as the country was placed under a state of emergency. Metro stations were closed. Almost no noise could be heard but police and ambulance sirens across much of the capital. Blue police warning lights seemed to be everywhere. Some 1,500 additional soldiers were deployed in the capital and its suburbs.
The local city hall was turned into an emergency psychological assistance center for people who suffered shock after the attack. Dozens of security and rescue workers waited outside for new patients.
The center is located about 800 meters from the Bataclan concert hall, where dozens were killed on Friday night in the deadliest attack in the series. Several smaller attacks took place nearby. At least 120 were killed and 200 were wounded in the multiple incidents.
“It’s the closest site located next to the concert hall,” Emmanuel Stene of the French Red Cross told Haaretz. “We transported the severely wounded to the hospital, treated others on the site and brought people who witnessed these attacks here.
“It's terrible. We haven't seen anything like this in a very long time," he said.
Several times per hour, rescue workers brought dozens of survivors from the various attacks to the psychological center on municipal buses, the only vehicles authorized to access the area aside from police cars and rescue services vans.
After President François Hollande visited survivors there, the mayor of Paris came to the crisis center and told the press that France had been attacked because of its values.
“The Republic’s values are still alive," Anne Hidalgo said. "We paid a heavy price for them."
Around the neighborhood, dozens of people were heading home, many devastated by the events that happened so close to home.
“I’m crushed by what happened. In February it was Charlie Hebdo, now everything is starting all over again,” Nathalie, a deputy school principal, told Haaretz. With the streets and metro shut, she rented a bicycle to get home but couldn’t find her street. “I can’t believe I’m lost in my own neighborhood, I’ve been riding back and forth. I don’t recognize where I live anymore.
"It’s like we’re in Jerusalem," she said. "The army is everywhere. We’re at war. Working in a school, security has become a constant problem and now things are getting worse."
Some people from outside of Paris struggled to access parking lots close to the attack sites.
“What happened is pure horror. I’m terrified. Imagine what they did to these people. We were in a restaurant practically next door,” said a 50-year-old man, who was so panicked he and his friends wouldn’t even give their first names, noting only that they live in a southern suburb of Paris. The group said it wouldn’t come back to the capital anytime soon unless it's absolutely necessary.
Other people said they won’t change any of their habits.
“A terrorist attack can happen anytime, anywhere," said Marie, who lives across the street from the concert hall. "The 11th arrondissement is a great and lively neighborhood with young people, restaurants and cafés. It’s no use leaving it. Terrorists try to hit everywhere and make as many victims as possible. Once it’s a train, another time it’s a newspaper. This place is just as safe as any other."
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