In Paris' Packed Cafes And Concert Hall, 'A Scene Of Devastation'
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Haxie Meyers-Belkin is a journalist with France 24. She was on the scene immediately after the attacks and joins us now from Paris. Thanks so much for being with us.
HAXIE MEYERS-BELKIN, BYLINE: Hello.
SIMON: You worked all through the night. Thank you for that. Where were you and what did you see?
MEYERS-BELKIN: So I was with a television crew from France 24. We were the first television crew to arrive on the Rue de Charonne, about 150 meters away from the restaurant called La Belle Equipe. That's one of the five cafes - restaurants - targeted in eastern Paris last night. We were 150 meters away, as I said, behind the police cordon. When we arrived, it was really pandemonium. The streets were filled with the sound of sirens. Ambulances were rushing past. And we spoke to two eyewitnesses who themselves had tried to enter La Belle Equipe to eat earlier in the evening. It's known for its terrace. It's very popular, people wanting to eat outside. It was quite a mild November evening. And these two people who I spoke to had tried to get table, hadn't managed because it was that full. So two hours after they tried to get in, they said they heard a rain of bullets. And they went outside into the street to see really a scene of devastation, bloodied bodies on the streets, tables, chairs strewn around. They then had to return to the restaurant they had been eating in and sought shelter under the tables.
SIMON: What about the other sites in Paris?
MEYERS-BELKIN: The Bataclan music venue is, as I'm sure you've heard, the scene of the greatest loss of life. Eighty people dead there, we're hearing. There was a hostage situation. Eyewitnesses and people from within the Bataclan have reported that gunmen - four gunmen, we're hearing - opened fire on the crowds. And there were, what we're hearing, were summary executions. Some people hid in the wings. There are reports of other people breaking a hole through the ceiling in the toilets to seek shelter.
SIMON: Of course, this is the second terrorist attack in Paris this year. And I wonder how you see any differences or similarities between the attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market earlier this year and what happened last night.
MEYERS-BELKIN: It's a very different sort of attack, I think, first for a number of reasons. There is - and everyone agrees - a significantly heightened sense of violence in last night's attack, a heightened sense of horror. Of course, we're talking about many more people dead. The current status stands at 127 dead. But of course, there are many more still injured in hospital, although one of the major hospitals in Paris did report that no one had died overnight, which is - which is good news in a sea of truly appalling news. But also, that the targets are very different. In January, people who were targeted were journalists - specifically at Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper - but also the Jewish community at the attack in the kosher supermarket. Last night was very different. The targets were civilians, predominately young people out on a Friday night. And the attacks were timed to cause the most damage possible - the greatest loss of life possible - 9:30 in the evening, people were out on the terrace. It's a Friday night. People were enjoying themselves, young people getting on with their lives. That's the major difference with this attack - with these series of attacks, I should say.
SIMON: Haxie Meyers-Belkin of France 24 speaking with us from Paris. Thanks so much for being with us.
MEYERS-BELKIN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.