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An avoidable catastrophe? The Bataclan concert hall is evacuated after the terrorist attack which killed 89 (©Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)


On Friday November 13, we were watching our favourite TV series when my father-in-law called, in a panic. It was 11pm. Was I in Paris? No. Great — because something terrible was happening. An attack? Again? Le Monde’s website was down. I turned to the BBC, where I learned about the whole thing, then to a French news channel. It was devastating.

My best friend lives 15 minutes away from the Bataclan, the theatre where 90 people were shot. I called her — fortunately, she was at home, safe. Then I called all my other friends in Paris. Everyone was safe. I was relieved, but felt also guilty, because other people were not as lucky.

Before moving to London a year ago, I lived in the 19th arrondissement, a few Metro stations away from the place of the attacks. The Bataclan is located between the pretty Canal-Saint-Martin and Le Marais, the beautiful part-Jewish, part-gay area. My friends and I used to go out there often. To me, the attacks seemed all the more real and terrifying as they happened in the very place where I had lived for years.

I spent the rest of the weekend in front of the news. My first feeling was a deep sadness. For most of the following days, I was stunned, weak, unable to undertake any consistent task. I constantly looked at the pictures and films showing hundreds of flowers and candles left by people in front of the Bataclan and the targeted restaurants. I read dozens of stories told by victims and witnesses. I felt nothing but empathy.

However, within days, I felt something different. I felt anger. I got fed-up with the sight of flowers and candles piling up in the streets. The impression was growing that the only reaction we French were able to show was shock and grief, and that we favoured “kitsch” over reserve. This was perfectly demonstrated by the commemoration of the attacks on November 27, where President François Hollande sat ridiculously alone on a chair, aloof from the crowd, while songs by Jacques Brel and Barbara were badly sung. Barbara’s song, “Perlimpinpin”, was possibly a good choice, but I didn’t really see the point of singing “Quand on n’a que l’amour”, or John Lennon’s “Imagine”, which was played by a pianist in the street after the attacks, and dozens of times everywhere afterwards. Peace and love against hatred? Is that really going to impress IS? To be clear: I have the utmost respect for the huge pain and despair of the families who have lost loved ones, and they are free to play and sing anything they want for the rest of their lives. What I don’t get is why the French government is deploying emotion instead of reason. You cannot pretend to be “merciless” against your enemy, and at the same time gather to sing songs like “Imagine”. 

But that is not the main cause of my anger. Its main cause is the political leaders of my country, and not only the current ones but all of them, because they have ignored the threats looming over us for a long time.

Each time that a catastrophe happens it is customary to say that it could have been avoided. This is not always true. But in the case of the latest Paris attacks, it is. After the January attacks against Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher supermarket, we knew that France was a prominent target for terrorists. There were other attacks which we merely talked about, and which would have appeared as horrendous in other times. Remember the Thalys attack in August? The beheading of the poor boss of an IS supporter in June?

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