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Knife attack outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices: A Paris district resigned to violence

A police officer stands guard at the scene of an incident near the former offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, France, on September 25, 2020.
A police officer stands guard at the scene of an incident near the former offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, France, on September 25, 2020. © Charles Platiau, REUTERS

Police officers started removing the red and white barrier tape on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, about five hours after a knife attack near the former offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

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Pools of journalists and cameramen remained fixed by the cordoned off Paris street where two people were seriously wounded in the attack, while life returned to normal around them as people walked by, coming home from work or going to pick up their children from school.

“We’re worried and at the same time calm about it, because we’re used to it,” said local Alain, who had just been to pick up his six-year-old son, Sacha.

As news broke of the attack around midday on Friday, around 125 schools and nurseries in the 3rd, 4th and 11th arrondissements went into lockdown. Thousands of children were told to stay inside, with the windows closed and the curtains drawn, and were told to stay away from the windows. One child told FRANCE 24 that he was “a little scared”.

But many parents explained that they had been well-informed of what was happening by text and email, and they trusted teachers to keep the children safe.

'The attack brought back bad memories'

Valerian, a 46-year-old father of two, was at work when he heard that his son’s nursery had been put into lockdown.

“In 2015, our other child was at this same nursery when there was the Charlie Hebdo attack, so it brought back a lot of bad memories,” he said. “Our older child was locked down – for the second time – in his school. You just have to trust the teachers and staff. They, unfortunately, now know what to do. This has become normal now.”

FRANCE 24 spoke to one woman whose apartment looks onto the rue Nicolas-Appert, where the attack took place.

“I saw everything. I saw people running and shouting, and heard the sirens, and saw the emergency teams arrive,” she said. “But you can’t give into fear.”

It was a similar message from other locals. Alexandre Hard, a masseuse who works at a beauty salon a street away from where the attack took place, said, “We’re unfortunately used to this kind of violence. This is the world we live in now.”

Paris’s 11th arrondissement has been the scene of tragedy before – first with the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015, and later that year in November, when the Bataclan concert hall was stormed by gunmen. One hundred and thirty people were killed in that attack. The Bataclan is just five minutes away from the site of Friday’s attack.

For Nicolas, it’s made him see his local neighbourhood differently. The 35 year old was looking after his 18-month-old daughter Joanne at home nearby when the attack took place.

“It upset me,” he admitted. “When I heard about it, it was a blow. This is the second time we’ve lived through this. I lived here during Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan. Now this. It’s too much. I had never thought of leaving the area before… But I was walking right by there this morning with my daughter. It makes you think.”

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