Paris attacks: Survivors of the atrocity tell their stories

For some the horror lasted only minutes, while others hid for hours

Chris Green
Monday 16 November 2015 23:39 GMT
Paris survivor on the attacks

Harrowing details of the moment the Paris gunmen attacked restaurants and the Bataclan music venue have emerged as survivors tell their stories. Many only escaped by playing dead or running for their lives. For some the horror lasted only minutes while others hid for hours.

Grégoire Philonenko

A survivor of the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall has told how his life was saved by his prosthetic leg when the terrorists started executing people who were lying on the floor. Mr Philonenko said he watched in horror as a gunman – who had been killing every third person in a line of hostages – approached the place where he and his son were playing dead.

“I said to my son: ‘I am a dead man, it’s over. You don’t move, don’t move! But me, I am dead,” he told the BBC. But when the killer approached, he kicked Mr Philonenko’s prosthetic leg several times and seemed convinced that he had already been killed. The gunman then moved on down the line, ignoring Mr Philonenko’s son, and began killing others.

Khaled Saadi

The 27-year-old waiter was working at La Belle Equipe restaurant, where his sister was celebrating her birthday with friends and family, when the gunmen opened fire. “There were three birthdays including my sister’s one, so the terrace was crowded. They killed everybody – my two sisters, my friends and my sister’s friends that were there. I laid on the ground on my stomach hoping to avoid the bullets. It lasted a minute in total. I then went out of the restaurant and they were all dead or suffering.”

Mr Saadi discovered his sister Halima, 35, had been killed on the spot, but he tried to save the life of his other sister Hodda, 36, the manager of the restaurant. “I moved her with a friend of hers named Sam – we moved her to another restaurant nearby. Then I left to get my other sister. I left Sam with Hodda so he could talk with her and keep her awake, because she was still breathing.” Hodda later died.

Mariesha Payne and Christine Tudhope

Two women who survived the Bataclan massacre have recounted how they cowered in a cellar underneath the concert hall as the terrorists killed people above them. The two friends, from Scotland, ran for cover after seeing bullets hit the stage as they watched the band Eagles of Death Metal perform.

“It stopped. People gasped, thinking it was part of the show, and then a second round went off,” Ms Tudhope told Sky News. “I just said ‘Run, just get out of here’. We were close to an exit, we just ran.”

They got into the cellar, but realised there was no way out. When the door burst open, they assumed it was the terrorists. But to their relief it was two other audience members, so the group barricaded the door. “We heard bullets, grenades, explosions, screams,” Ms Tudhope said. “I think we were directly under the stage area. At one point we could hear the terrorists on their walkie talkies.” They waited there for three hours until being freed by police.

Hanna Corbett and Jack Konda, both students, were at the Bataclan

Hanna Corbett and Jack Konda

The University of Nottingham students, both 21, were at the Bataclan. “We heard what sounded like firecrackers. Everyone thought it was part of the show but then I saw the lead singer’s face turn white with fear and the band fled the stage. We all just dropped to the floor,” said Hanna.

“When the music stopped, the lights came up and there was this haunting silence in between gunfire. I could see blood and bodies on the floor. Everybody was being really quiet. People were lying on the floor pretending to have been shot. But in the panic of it all I don’t know whether they could have been dead bodies. In the background I could just hear these hollow gunshot sounds repeatedly going off.

“People were helping each other and hugging – it was really heartbreaking. Some managed to crawl out but there was just a pile of people by the fire exit.”

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