The Attacks At Bataclan: A Survivor's Story

Nov 26, 2015
Originally published on November 26, 2015 7:36 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In France this week, funerals for the victims of the Paris attacks are still taking place. Tomorrow, a national ceremony will be held in Paris. And those who survived are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and go on. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley talked to a man who was in the Bataclan concert hall that night nearly two weeks ago.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Julien Pearce just returned to his apartment in Paris. He left the city after the attacks and stayed with his family in the Alps for comfort. But he's planning to go back to work next week and says he needs to be prepared.

JULIEN PEARCE: Because I need to get used again to Paris, to feel Paris, to be able again to walk in the streets, in crowded streets. There's a lot of cars and so on, which is still quite difficult because of the sound, the noise.

BEARDSLEY: Pearce is 27 years old. He's a radio reporter for popular station Europe 1. One of his beats happens to be terrorism. Back in January, Pearce was one of the first journalists on the scene when radical gunmen killed 12 people at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

PEARCE: I've seen things there that I've seen - again, I wouldn't say I'm used to it because you never get used to that kind of horror.

BEARDSLEY: But this time, Pearce was part of the horror. He was near the stage at the Bataclan when the shooting began. The only way out was to cross the stage. For a while, Pearce just played dead and watched.

PEARCE: I just couldn't stop watching it because I wanted to see these guys. I wanted to look at them and recognize their faces maybe. But I wanted to - to be able to at the right moment to make a move, just to wait for the right moment - they reloaded the guns - to tell some of the persons around me who were still alive we have to do something right now.

BEARDSLEY: By playing dead and moving when the gunman reloaded, Pearce was able to make it onto the stage and then across it to the exit. He stumbled on a woman who had just been shot and was bleeding profusely. He helped get her outside in the street, where they hid in a doorway. Pearce said it was impossible wrap a tourniquet around her leg to stop the bleeding.

PEARCE: So I decided to put my fingers in the wound to try to find an artery to block it. She was already losing her head. I mean, she was already going away.

BEARDSLEY: When he saw he could do nothing, Pearce found a cab to take her to the nearest hospital along with one of her friends who had also escaped. He says he doesn't know if she made it. He sent a tweet to try to find her. It's been retweeted 16,000 times, but still there's no new. An emergency room doctor told him with such a wound, she probably didn't survive.

PEARCE: I'm ready to hear that. But I strongly believe that she's still alive because I want to believe this. You know, that's the only positive action I've been able to do on that day. At least I tried, and it would be great to know the she's - she's fine.

BEARDSLEY: Pearce says he is constantly haunted.

PEARCE: I have these images coming to my brain four to five times a day, you know? It can be on your couch watching TV. It can be in the streets. But these images keep coming at you. And that's why you have to learn how to deal with it and how to live with it because they won't - they won't go away.

BEARDSLEY: Pearce says he's working with a therapist who's pushing him to describe the incomprehensible scenes to conquer the horrible images with words. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.