opinion : Helen Hickey

Tonight in Paris…

Helen Hickey

NOV 14 — I’m in a pub, fortunately not in Paris. I am celebrating my first week of teaching, and ironically myself and two other teachers were thinking about heading into Paris tonight...

Glad we didn’t.

Friday 13th. I half-jokingly told my pupils in class this afternoon that it’s an unlucky  day today. Little did I know. This is big, this is bigger than what we saw back in January and the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

I’m sitting next to Stephanie, 26; she’s an American au pair who’s just made it safely out of the Stade de France. She was watching the France versus Germany football match, very close to one of the three terrorist attacks in Paris tonight.

She’s in a slightly glazed-eye state of shock, but after a whisky she started to talk:

“We were at the match, not sure how far into it, but I heard a ‘blast’, one at first, then five minutes later there was another one. I thought maybe it was fireworks, but I couldn’t see any smoke.

“I didn’t think anything of it. Then at halftime, when I went to the toilet I noticed lots of security guards. Like lots.

“About five minutes before the end of the match, my friends and I started getting texts saying things like: “There’s a terrorist attack very close to you... you need to leave now!”

“I was really scared and left immediately, before the game had finished.”

They left easily, but apparently this wasn’t the case for others. I read that President François Hollande, who was also watching the game, was evacuated from the Stadium pretty quick by his security team.

Stephanie and her friend got back safely, they took a train from Châtelet; they heard shooting as their train left the station.

Alex, 30, the French owner of the pub based in the western suburbs of Paris, just joined our table. He  tells me: “It’s no surprise.  I’m not surprised this kind of shit has happened. It will happen again too. 

“The situation here in France has got worse - while I’m not political, we have said yes to all people from many countries, Belgium, Syria, Algeria, China to come to our country.

“Yes to all. Is this right for the government to allow this? Why? The politicians are too liberal? It’s now so easy for the perpetrators to enter the country. They are to blame for not keeping us safe.

“But I’m not afraid. I’m still going to run my pub, even if it was based in Paris. I’m not afraid. I need to live my life.”

What Alex says makes me feel uneasy. He’s not political, but his sentiments have strong Marine Le Pen’s National Front rhetoric.

I’m personally in shock. Within minutes of the attacks making the headlines, I received texts from many friends checking I wasn’t affected.

Now, my thoughts are with the families of those killed tonight.

All I know is that this is bad, this is very bad for France.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

 

MORE ON MMOTV