For Francois Jean, a 31-year-old Parisian, the simultaneous terror attacks in Paris on Friday (Nov. 13) struck in the place he was and in the place he could have been.
Jean was on his way home from the France-Germany soccer match at the Stade de France, a site of three blasts, when he got a phone call. Gunfire had just rocked Le Carillon Bistrot in the city’s 10th arrondissement, a bar where Jean spends most of his free time.
He received dozens of messages from other regular customers of Le Carillon and friends as the evening unfolded.
As night fell, less than 24 hours after the attacks, Jean lit a cigarette and gazed at the crowd gathered in front of the candles and signs near the closed restaurant.
“If I hadn’t been at the game, I would have been at the Carillon,” he told Quartz. “The attack happened at my home. They’ve touched the closest [thing] to my heart.” Jean said that he heard from the owner of the bistro but doesn’t know who was killed in the attack. “I’m scared to find out,” he said.
Overall, some 128 people were killed and more than 300 were injured last night in attacks in various locations in Paris’ 10th and 11th districts. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. The Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, site of two attacks, are within a block of each other in the city’s Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood. Unlike the 1995 Paris subway bombing in an area highly frequented by tourists, this time the gunfire struck far from monuments and museums. It happened in a neighborhood, a place where the residents remain in shock.
“I could have been right here,” said Jonathan Legrand, 29, another regular at the restaurants near the Canal. “Today, I did a macabre sort of tour, from place to place. These are family places. And today, they are in mourning.”
On Saturday evening, most of the restaurants and businesses around the Carillon and Petit Cambodge remained closed. While crowds gathered before the Carillon, the surrounding streets remained calm, nearly deserted.
Clara Julien, 20, and two friends sat on a stoop smoking and studying the scene.
“We came here so it would set in, that this really did happen,” she said.
While no one truly expected such an attack in the calm of an off-the-beaten path neighborhood and its small eateries, Alexandra Kawiak, 31, another regular at the Carillon, said that she suspects the location might have been chosen for a reason.
“We think it was a target,” she said. “The owners are French of Arabic origin, and they are progressive.”
Kawiak and her friend Aude Levere, also 31, said that in this neighborhood, people of all origins, religions and backgrounds come together. It is the identity of the small patch of streets just off the banks of the Canal.
Residents aren’t dictated by “rules of religion,” said Levere, who watched the attacks unfold from her window the previous night. She said she heard a firecracker-like sound, then saw people running and hiding behind scooters.
But for Francois Jean, the regular at the Carillon, the choice of this place as a target still seems unreal.
“It’s like in a film,” he said. “I still can’t believe it. I still don’t understand why.”