Attackers in Paris ‘Did Not Give Anybody a Chance’

By  and MILAN SCHREUERNOV. 14, 2015

PARIS — François Granier, a wine consultant and rock music fan, thought the concert he was attending Friday night had simply taken a particularly raucous turn.Mai Hua, a fashion blogger and video director who was dining a few blocks away, figured the explosions she heard were just another burst of gang violence.

Erin Allweiss, a publicist from New York who was eating at a restaurant in the same district, hoped the noise came from fireworks.

One by one on Friday evening, all the ordinary reflexes, expectations and hopes of urban life fell away as Parisians and visitors to their city confronted nearly simultaneous attacks that spanned from the Stade de France, the national sports stadium on the northern edge of the city, to a shabby-chic district studded with bars and restaurants four miles south.

People lay on the sidewalk outside a cafe on Friday night while others tended to them, after a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris that left more than 120 people dead. Credit Anthony Dorfmann/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Little seemed to tie the attacks across at least six sites, except that all the 129 victims had been out having fun. But that was very much the point for the Islamic State militant group, which later took responsibility for the carnage and said that it had struck France’s symbols of “perversity.”

There were other common elements as well — synchronized attacks, targeting random victims, by well-equipped and apparently trained militants, who François Molins, the Paris prosecutor, described as working in three coordinated squads.

The attacks began at 9:20 p.m. on a chilly Friday outside the stadium, in the suburb of St.-Denis, where France was playing Germany. President François Hollande was among those in attendance.

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“We heard something that sounded like a detonating bomb as well as shooting,” said Agnès Dupont, who was at the match with her husband and two young children.

Others said they thought youngsters outside the stadium were setting off firecrackers. Another blast followed 10 minutes later. The teams kept playing.


A victim fell to the sidewalk outside the Cafe Bonne Bière in Paris on Friday. Credit Anthony Dorfmann/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The prosecutor, Mr. Molins, later said that two of the attackers had detonated suicide bombs near gates to the stadium, which they apparently had tried to enter. A third suicide bomber struck much later, at 9:53 p.m. near a McDonald’s, killing at least one other person.

Across the city, five minutes after the first suicide bomber detonated his explosive outside the stadium, Betty Alves, a 39-year-old Parisian, was ordering Chinese food with a friend at a restaurant in the once working-class and now fashionable 10th Arrondissement. Gunshots rang out.

“It was terrifying,” she recalled. “We saw everyone run down the street. We jumped on the floor and I hid under the table.”

The restaurant closed its metal shutters and everyone hid inside. When they opened the shutters, Ms. Alves said she saw one young woman dead on the street and another man seriously wounded. Her car, a Smart, parked nearby, was riddled with bullet holes.

In that time, 15 diners were killed at the nearby Le Petit Cambodge, an Asian restaurant near a canal that runs through the 10th Arrondissement, and at a restaurant across the street, Le Carillon. Gunmen, according to witnesses, sprayed the establishments with bullets from a black vehicle and then raced away.

Emily Murphy, 28, an architect, had gathered at the packed Carillon with about a dozen of her colleagues. Unable to find a table inside, they stood on the sidewalk, drinks in hand. As Ms. Murphy was preparing to leave to meet a girlfriend in another part of town, she heard what sounded like a small explosion behind her. A man standing next to her pushed her to the ground and told her not to move.

“I was in the middle of the sidewalk. The shooting was going on and on, and I was so scared he could see me and was going to come closer,” she said, referring to a gunman. She said she felt something like a “scratch” on her right leg but only realized after the shooting stopped that she had been grazed.

At the time, Ms. Hua, 38, the fashion blogger, was eating with three friends on a terrace at Madame Shawn, a Thai restaurant in the area, when she and her friends heard a series of loud bangs. She said they had initially thought the noise was related to gang clashes that sometimes blighted the area.

“It took us a while to register what had happened,” she said. “I looked at my iPhone and I had many worried calls. This is one of the most densely populated areas in Paris. There is no place that is more full on a Friday night. This is a place where young people hang out. It was a hit at the soul of Paris.”

By 9:32 p.m., the same squad of terrorists in the same vehicle, according to the prosecutor, had already found their next target: the Cafe Bonne Bière, a bar in the adjacent 11th Arrondissement. At least five people were killed there.

While she isn’t able to say much about the episode, she told CNA that she loves making Mexican food, finding frugal ways to make fancier dishes, and experimenting with flavors.

“I recently made fish tacos with sweet potatoes! Sometimes when I'm cooking, those in the kitchen are a little dubious about the flavor combinations I put together…but nine times out of ten, we have culinary success!” she said.

“I've been told my outside the box pesto (moving beyond the boundaries of pine-nuts to other, more economical nuts) and my Picadillo (a Spanish beef dish) are well done.”

She also loves to bake strawberry rhubarb pie – a favorite of the late Cardinal Francis George.

Even more so than a chance to showcase her cooking skills and earn money for the mission, she said she saw the show as a chance to be a witness.

“I wanted to do it for Jesus: to be a witness to how fulfilling a life surrendered to God can be. I also wanted to represent the least among us, the very poor, who are so dear to Jesus,” she said.

Sr. Torres is one of the founders of her order, which has a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and apostolates involving evangelization and service to the poor.

“Our vocation as religious is to live a life of prayer, witness and service – being on Chopped certainly gives a great opportunity to share that message with the world.”

Even before her life as a sister and soup kitchen chef, Sr. Torres was baking breads and cakes in her kitchen by the time she was a teenager, and her parents always emphasized the importance of family meals together.  

About two years ago, the sisters and volunteers at Our Lady of Angels realized that they needed to emphasize the community aspect of their soup kitchen just as much as the physical needs of the hungry.

“We have an emphasis on satisfying not only physical hunger, but also spiritual hunger. We begin any meal with a prayer service with a Liturgy of the Word format, as most of our neighbors are not Catholic, but Baptist,” she said. “Keeping God's Word at the center helps us to stay united.”

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