Ever since November 13, 2015, Sebastien Dauzet has been feeling vulnerable. That night, nine gunmen attacked what he considers the heart of his neighbourhood. The terrorists killed 130 people in attacks at the Stade de France stadium just north of Paris, as well as in several bars and the Bataclan music venue in the capital. It was France’s bloodiest terror attack since World War II. Dauzet had recently taken up a job as a bartender at La Bonne Biere in northeastern Paris. That night, the restaurant became a war zone.
‘Suddenly, everybody was running’
“At 9.30 p.m. that night, I thought I was hearing firecrackers — I didn’t understand what was happening,” the 41-year-old told DW recently, while standing in front of the bar where he no longer works. He points to the restaurant’s dining room and terrace: “Suddenly, everybody was running. One man who had been shot in the leg was trying to climb up the stairs over there.” “I looked outside and saw the attackers firing their Kalashnikovs. It was like in a movie. I threw myself on the floor, and stayed there for a while,” he recalls.Just 2 km southeast from there, terrorists had started shooting at people at La Belle Equipe. Although he wasn’t there when the attacks happened, returning to that bar is still difficult for Dauzet. “I have this Italian friend, Fil, whose Mexican girlfriend was at a birthday party here. He had proposed to her just two months earlier,” he explains from the sidewalk in front of La Belle Equipe. “She was killed in the attack,” he says soberly.
Dauzet crosses the street and stands in front of a commemorative plaque fixed to a wall and decorated with flowers that also had Michelli, the name of the woman, on it. “She was an angel. She was beautiful, intelligent, kind-hearted. We still miss her,” he says, with tears in his eyes.
The French justice system will now seek to hold 20 people accountable for these brutal attacks. Only one of the accused, Salah Abdeslam, is thought to have been directly involved in the assaults — by driving the terrorists to their target locations and participating in the manufacture of explosives. The other 19, some of them in absentia or believed dead, are accused of having planned and organised the attacks or of being the terrorists’ helping hands. The trial is expected to go on for at least nine months and involve 1,800 civil plaintiffs and more than 300 lawyers. Thierry, a 56-year-old who prefers not to have his last name published, is among the civil plaintiffs.
Deep psychological scars
He survived the Bataclan attack by hiding with a few others in a dressing room for hours — while three gunmen massacred 90 people during a concert. The band Eagles of Death Metal had been playing. “When the police finally freed us, they escorted us out of the main door. I looked over and saw several bodies lying on the ground over there, in the smokers’ corner,” he explains to DW while pointing toward one stretch of sidewalk in front of the music hall. The salesman, who works in the tourism industry, believes he has a lucky star. But behind his joyful smile remain deep scars.
“I don’t think the wound will ever heal,” he says. “As soon as you encounter a problem in everyday life, the trauma comes back. And I sleep very little, I keep waking up. Every night, I dream that I’m fighting against terrorists — to save lives.” He added that the court case is unlikely to change all that. “Of course, I will testify — also because the trial will be filmed for the archives and future generations,” he says. But he doesn’t expect anything spectacular, he adds. “The accused won’t cry or apologise. They will simply pay for what they’ve done — and I hope that they’ll get tough sentences.”