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Paris solemnly marks first anniversary of deadly attacks

Blue, white and red candles in the colours of the French flag burn at the Place de la Republique in Paris on November 13, 2016, after ceremonies held for the victims of last year's Paris attacks.
Blue, white and red candles in the colours of the French flag burn at the Place de la Republique in Paris on November 13, 2016, after ceremonies held for the victims of last year's Paris attacks. Philippe Wojazer/REUTERS
Text by: Clea Broadhurst
11 min

'Life for Paris', an organisation for victims families, held a sober memorial ceremony at the town hall of Paris’ 11th arrondissement - the district where most of the attacks took place, to mark the first year anniversary of the deadly attacks.


Life for Paris ceremony in Paris, Mairie 11th

Paris was quiet this 13th of November. Solemnly so.

Early in the morning, President Francois Hollande and the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo visited each site struck by Islamist extremists in the capital on the night of Novembre 13, 2015 to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks that killed 130 people.

In silence, Hollande pulled French flags from plaques commemorating the victims at five bars and restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and the national stadium, where the first attack occurred as the president watched a France-Germany soccer match.

The names of the victims were being read out at each site.

At noon, Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Hidalgo, came with the survivors of the organisation "Life for Paris" at the Mairie of the 11th arrondissement.

Arthur Dénouveaux, vice-president of Life for Paris

The association, made up of 650 of the victims of the attacks and their families, organised the gathering outside city hall.

The only sound heard there - where people gathered peacefully - was a piano.

It was played by one of the medical staff that helped at the Bataclan that evening.

Caroline Langlade, Life for Paris' president, was the only one delivering a speech, full of hope, praising the many heroes who were born that night.

"That Friday, we were strangers to each other. Hundreds, thousands, of unknown people. A regular Friday night, like any other. That night though, bodies got tangled, intertwined, and clung together to become one. One human being. That evening, heroes were born. Heroes who took on the unthinkable.

The hero silenced her own suffering, smothering her own cry so as not to risk someone else's life.

The hero helped others while bullets were flying above his head, even if it cost him his own life.

The heroes are the victims' loved ones, who didn't succumb to hatred.

The heroes are those who still haven't gone home, who are fighting every day to build themselves up again.

The heroes are the neighbours who opened doors, and their hearts, to hide people and to care for them.

The heroes came out onto the streets to help, to save people.

The heroes still have to explain their wounds because they are not visible.

The heroes are those who, because of their job, had to face their own fear and overcame it.

The heroes are the foreign victims, those free spirits with no boundaries.

The heroes are the local mayors who have tried to make sense of this.

The heroes are the French people who've overcome their anger and their fear - to remain united.

Today, one year has gone by, one year of memories, one year to try to get to know a little better those who died, those who were close to them, and those who survived.

One year to try to reclaim our lives. What joy to be able to see these children here today, some of whom resisted death, even before they were born. What force of nature they must have, to go on with their lives, despite having suffered loss, trying to make sense of the adults' terrifying world.

No one prepares you for terror. It is imposed on you. Today, we have to deal with it every day. Because if Life has carried on for each of you, it did not wait for us. Let us heal, be patient, lenient, we are still learning how to face our demons, our losses, our pain, our stories. We will catch up with you, because we know that we still have today to try and make tomorrow happen, offer the living the right to be patched up and offer the children, the happiness of peace. Thank you."

Before attending a round-table on resilience and an exhibition of memorial messages and drawings left at attack sites, hundreds of balloons were launched, to represent all the victims.

The survivors wanted the ceremony to close with a single thought: hope for the future.

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