Video: Returning to the Bataclan, two years after Paris attacks
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Two years ago, 90 people were killed at the Bataclan concert hall as the deadliest terrorist attacks on French soil were carried out across Paris. For some survivors, returning to the landmark is a necessary step on the path to recovery.
Monday marks the second anniversary of the November 13, 2015, attacks on several Paris nightspots and France's national stadium that left 130 people dead.
At the Bataclan alone, 90 people were massacred and scores more were left injured or traumatised, in a bloodbath later claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.
Among the revellers that night was Patricia Le Gall. Two years after the horror, she has finally mustered the courage to return to the iconic concert hall, located in the French capital’s trendy east.
“On November 13 I was at the front of the hall, right in the middle,” she recalled, pointing at the stage where the Eagles of Death Metal were playing when the gunmen burst in, firing randomly into the crowd.
“But tonight I plan to stay close to the emergency exit,” she added gingerly.
Stéphanie Zarev, another survivor of the Bataclan attack, has gone back to the concert hall several times already. She remembers the shock she experienced on her first return.
“I was in a corner of the hall petrified and shaking like crazy; I just couldn’t do it,” she said.
On that fateful night, both Le Gall and Zarev managed to escape with the help of the Bataclan’s head of security, who guided them through an emergency exit.
Since then, security has been completely overhauled. The venue is now filled with surveillance cameras and all doors can be locked from a central security post.
Attendance figures suggest the public is now comfortable returning to the 1,700-capacity venue – and this despite a controversy over its future.
Two members of Eagles of Death Metal returned to perform a few songs near the venue on Monday. After singing "Save a Prayer", the song the band had just finished when the attack began, lead singer Jesse Hughes handed white roses to some of the families of the victims.
While many bands have volunteered to play again at the famed hall, which reopened last year with a high-profile concert by British rock star Sting, other prominent artists have argued that it is no longer fitting to use it as a place for revelling.
Last month Nicola Sirkis, the lead singer of French band Indochine, said it was "ignoble" to reopen a venue that should have "remained a sanctuary ... a memorial to the dead".
Like Sirkis, some musicians have already said they will never perform at the Bataclan again.
But Bernie Bonvoisin, the lead singer of Trust, whose concert Le Gall and Zarev both attended, believes that keeping the concert hall alive is a mark of respect for the victims of the November 13 attacks.
“There are some people who want to make this place a mausoleum, who think it’s inappropriate to perform here,” he said. “But I actually think we have to come back.”
After the concert, Le Gall felt relieved she had confronted the ghosts of the past by coming back to the Bataclan.
“If I hadn’t returned, I would have missed a step in […] turning the page,” she said. “So I had to come back.”