French president Emmanuel Macron led the commemorations on the second anniversary of the Paris terror attacks on Monday. The atrocities aimed to crush the French capital’s joie de vivre, but did not succeed.
On the night of November 13th 2015, Paris was plunged into horror as jihadist killers launched simultaneous attacks on bars, the national stadium and a concert hall, leaving 130 dead.
On Monday President Macron, his predecessor François Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo visited the site of each attack including the Stade de France and the Bataclan to honor the 130 victims.
If the bloodbath sought to crush the city’s much-envied lifestyle of pavement cafes, boozy meals, skimpy skirts and partying, it failed. Even as it mourned its dead, Paris defiantly resumed its traditional behavior, recasting itself in its role as the City of Lights.
Tourist numbers this year have surged, testifying to the French capital’s enduring allure. For the January-June period, hotels in the Paris region reported 16.4 million guests, the highest in a decade.
But emotional scars remain, and even the physicality of the city has in some ways altered.
“When I’m in the cinema, I tend not to linger just behind the entrance, and when I’m in the restaurant, I don’t like to have my back to the window… I don’t feel safe,” said 39-year-old Aurore Humez, who admitted it was “horrible” to be so fearful.
Parisians these days are used to the sight of security railings erected in front of concert halls and concrete bollards placed on pavements and outside schools to prevent ramming attacks by cars or trucks.
Armed soldiers, typically patrolling in groups of three, also now seem to be part of the city’s landscape. France has mobilized 7,000 troops to strengthen security in a mission called Operation Sentinel.
Police — a major target for the string of smaller attacks that have occurred since November 2015 — routinely don bulletproof vests while on patrol and tout a gun on their belt.
Workers, shoppers and tourists are expected to have their bags searched when they enter offices, department stores, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral or other monuments and museums.
Jeff and Lauren Stieritz, an American couple aged 35 and 33 interviewed outside the Arc de Triomphe, said the attacks were still in the back of their minds.
They found that there were more police in Paris today than in their last visit seven years ago, but the city felt secure – “It’s not the Middle East!” said Lauren.
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