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She played dead for an hour: How Paris woman survived attacks

Paris under attack Updated: Nov 16, 2015 19:58 IST
HT Correspondent
Paris attacks

People mourn as they gather at a makeshift memorial near the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on November 15, 2015, two days after a series of deadly attacks.(AFP Photo)

“You never think it will happen to you.” Thus begins 22-year-old Isobel Bowdery’s harrowing account of the havoc wreaked by three terrorists at the packed Bataclan Theatre in Paris on Friday night.

Her account, posted on Facebook with a photograph of the bloodstained shirt she wore that night, is a vivid description of the massacre she witnessed around her as she lay motionless, “pretending to be dead for over an hour”.

The gunshots that rent the air during a concert at Bataclan Theatre by the Eagles of Death Metal were initially mistaken to be part of the show, she says, describing the atmosphere as “so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling” even as the terrorists began the attack.

Photograph of the bloodstained shirt Isobel Bowdery wore that night. (Isobel Bowdery’s FB page)

Bowdery, a graduate of the University of Cape Town, recalls how the terrorists circled members of the audience and meticulously shot them – images that she says will haunt her for the rest of her life.

More than 130 people were killed and over 352 injured when eight terrorists struck multiple targets in Paris, including restaurants and the famed Bataclan Theatre, on Friday. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State.

Read| Young, happy lives cut short: The story of Paris carnage victims

Bowdery’s heart-wrenching account also describes the heroes she met that night – “the man who reassured me and put his life on line to try and cover my brain whilst I whimpered...the couple whose last words of love kept me believing the good in the world, to the police who succeeded in rescuing hundreds of people, to the complete strangers who picked me up from the road and consoled me during the 45 minutes I truly believed the boy I loved was dead, to the injured man who I had mistaken for him and then on my recognition that he was not Amaury, held me and told me everything was going to be fine despite being all alone and scared himself, to the woman who opened her doors to the survivors, to the friend who offered me shelter and went out to buy new clothes”.

She expresses grief over the loss of so many lives, “most of this is to the 80 people who were murdered inside that venue, who weren’t as lucky, who didn’t get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through”.

“I am so sorry. There’s nothing that will fix the pain. I feel privileged to be there for their last breaths,” she writes.

Her post has gone viral, garnering more than 2.6 million likes as of Monday evening, including one from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. It has been shared 750,000 times on the social network and generated more than 500 comments by users.

Read| Worse than war: Paris doctor recalls night of attacks