Hundreds of Parisians queue outside a branch of the French blood institute, eager to donate in order to aid victims of Friday’s terror attacks across the city. One donor, 29-year-old William Haddad, who lives near Le Carillon bistro, where 14 people were gunned down on Friday, said: “I am in good shape and so I can give blood. It’s the least I can do to help. We have to help, to have this sense of belonging.”
For his part, Juvin looked exhausted, having worked throughout the night, grabbing two hours’ sleep after dawn still wearing his creased white coat. On Friday night the hospital went into “Plan White”, he said. “It was very rapid, a call, the ambulances, then we had 50 to 60 people with gunshot wounds arriving. I have never experienced anything like it, but we are coping. We have been training for something like this. The response was astonishing. Doctors from all over this area turned up to offer help.
“We had two doctors from Brittany who arrived in the night. The nurses who had been on day duty came back, and even ex-students of the teaching hospital turned up. The operating theatres have been doing back-to-back operations all night and still are today. We sent the walking wounded home and told them to come back today or tomorrow but we used every bed we had: in geriatrics, in [the] children’s [department]. If there was a bed, we used it. This is an exceptional situation but we are an exceptional people. I am very proud of my team.”
In reception, a woman was sobbing, having heard that her boyfriend had suffered devastating abdominal injuries. “My love. Why did this happen?” she screamed, as her parents tried to wrap their arms round her. A nurse stood by in tears.
“We are very aware that many will be in trauma,” added Juvin. “We had a psychiatrist here last night and another will come later today. We have to treat both the physical and the psychological injuries.” On Saturday afternoon Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, announced that she had opened a psychological support group for Parisians in the 11th arrondissement.
Parisians light candles and lay tributes on the monument at the Place de la République. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesThe trauma was felt even by those not directly caught up in the attacks. Lucille Simon, 24, had to stay at a friend’s house because her apartment was near the Bataclan concert venue and was sealed off. “I am terrified. You don’t feel safe any more in Paris. I like living here. Even after Charlie Hebdo things returned to normal, but I’m starting to wonder maybe I should move. I’m frightened to go out in the street alone.”
The uneasy atmosphere in Paris was felt particularly keenly by young Muslims. One group gathered in a Tunisian-run cafe. They were mourning the dead, but also feared that their community would be blamed for Friday’s carnage. “I am worried some French people will think Islam did this, that all Muslims are terrorists,” said Kaber Bouchoucha, 24, who works in a market to support himself through his part-time studies in fine art and design. “Already people in France look at us badly. There already is racism and this will make it worse.”
Sofiane, a 30-year-old ambulance driver, has lived in France since he was eight years old and has a Christian wife. He feared the attacks would be exploited by racist groups. “There are plenty of French people who don’t discriminate, who see everyone just as humans. But there are some who understand nothing. I am well integrated, with lots of French friends, but I am worried about the impact on Muslims overall.”
As the horror of the attacks emerged, residents of eastern Paris used social media not just to listen to news and express emotion, but to offer help. The hashtag #PorteOuverte (open door) was quickly up and running on Twitter, with residents in the affected areas offering shelter to anyone who had been cleared from the streets and had nowhere to stay. Some just posted their addresses, while others asked Twitter users to contact them.
The ad hoc system seemed to work: “My friends are safe, in a random woman’s home. She’s making them dinner, & preparing beds. Blessed. #PorteOuverte,” posted one relieved woman. Soon the hashtag was trending globally alongside #PriezPourParis, #Solidarite and simply #Paris. Facebook was soon offering some comfort by marking all friends in Paris locations “safe” as they checked into their pages.
As the day progressed, more rallying signs appeared across the city. Locals put up a homemade poster saying “I am human” at the base of the Marianne statue, the symbol of the French republic, in Place de la République. “We aren’t activists, just Parisians,” they told reporters.
Local authorities announced that all amenities including schools, museums, libraries, gyms, swimming pools and markets would remain closed at the weekend. A service of mourning was being planned at Notre Dame.
The situation was summed up by Mandy Gilman, a New Yorker who has lived in the city for 26 years. “It is morose. But we have a spirit of calm in such times and Parisians will never be defeated by this. I still feel safer in Paris than in New York. This is the world we live in now.”