Last night in Paris

It has been an uncharacteristically mild November and Friday 13th was the first evening when the temperature began to drop to accustomed levels. Nonetheless, the streets were as busy as always with the Friday night bustle.

I left my friend at 10.30pm on Beaubourg, a few minutes between Arts et Metier and Les Halles. Within ten minutes I was home and the first signs that all was not well started to come through with panicked messages from overseas.

This street usually has hundreds of tourists on a Saturday.

This street usually has hundreds of tourists on a Saturday.

The first report said there was a shooting, hardly unusual for a big city. Ten minutes later another said 18 people were dead. Half an hour later it was forty. There were more to come.

My friend called me in a panic. He needed to cross Oberkampf on his way back to Voltaire and had seen armed police backing away from the street. “If the police are backing away, what do I do? I ran,” he said.

Thoughts immediately turned to friends in the city. Rue Oberkampf in particular is a popular Friday night destination and any one of dozens of friends would go there regularly, young and old.

The choice of a heavy metal concert seemed particularly cold. Fans of these bands seem often to be awkward teenagers. One report suggested that the gunmen had fired blindly into the crowd and they had time to reload three times. People survived by hiding under dead bodies.

***

Saturday morning in the Marais is normally bedlam. The streets are covered with tourists, shoppers and boutique-hoppers; crowds crawl along the street slowed by their own weight.

Today they are deserted and almost every shop is closed. A supermarket is open and sombre looking locals top up on supplies.

Some gallows humour has crept in. “Finally the neighbourhood is quiet on a Saturday” said one wag.

The general feeling this morning is that whilst life must go on, it has also irrevocably changed.

Then the statement arrived saying that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack. That France is their primary target.

Somebody shrugged. France is getting used to this.

Mark Payne is a freelance journalist,

follow him on http://www.twitter.com/markjpayne

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