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January 7, 2016

3

‘Je Suis Charlie’ – One Year On

by soundlandscapes

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY, 7th January 2015, at just before 11:30 in the morning, two brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in rue Nicolas-Appert in Paris.

Armed with assault rifles and other weapons, they killed eleven people and injured eleven others in the building. After leaving, they killed a French National Police officer, Ahmed Merabet, in Boulevard Richard Lenoir, close to the Charlie Hebdo building.

After the attack and with the gunmen on the run, France was plunged into a state of shock. There was an outpouring of sympathy for the victims, support for freedom of speech and defiance against the perpetrators. The symbol for all this became encapsulated by the declaration, ‘Je Suis Charlie’.

Place de la République - Charlie Hebdo

At about 8:45 the following morning, 8th January, as police continued their search for the Charlie Hebdo attack suspects, a lone gunman shot two people in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge.

The gunman, armed with a machine-gun and a pistol, shot dead a policewoman and injured a man before fleeing. The French authorities initially dismissed any suggestion of a link between the shooting and the Charlie Hebdo killings, but later confirmed the two were connected.

A breakthrough came later in the day when the Charlie Hebdo attack suspects were believed to be in the Aisne region, north-east of Paris.

By the morning of the next day, 9th January, the manhunt entered its final phase as police closed in on Saïd and Chérif Kouachi who were holed up in a printworks at Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km from Paris.

Meanwhile, in Paris, another siege was under way.

A gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, the man suspected of the shootings in Montrouge, took several people hostage at a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in the east of Paris and was threatening to kill them unless the Kouachi brothers were allowed to go free.

With the Kouachi brothers surrounded at the printworks in Dammartin-en-Goele and Coulibaly holding hostages in the supermarket at Porte de Vincennes, it was decided to mount simultaneous attacks by special forces to resolve both situations.

At a little after 5:00 pm the special forces at both locations were unleashed and the attacks took place. Saïd and Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly were shot dead. Fifteen hostages were freed from the supermarket and the bodies of four others shot by Coulibaly were recovered.

Notre Dame - Charlie Hebdo

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack and before the supermarket siege, a national day of mourning was held on 8th January with the bells of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris peeling out and then falling silent while a minute’s silence was observed across France.

Place de la République - Charlie Hebdo

On Sunday 11th January, somewhere between one-and-a-half and two million people marched from Place de la République to Place de la Nation in a display of unity and solidarity.

Place de la République - Charlie Hebdo

My memories of the Charlie Hebdo attacks are still vivid. As the events were unfolding, I visited the attack sites, stood outside the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris for the minute’s silence, took part in the march on 11th January and recorded sounds that reflected both the tension in the air and the overwhelming solidarity on the streets.

One year on, I visited the attack sites again and I was not the only one to do so.

On Tuesday this week, François Holland, Président de la République, Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, and Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, visited the Charlie Hebdo site, and then the site where the police officer, Ahmed Merabet, was shot dead and the supermarket at Porte de Vincennes. At each site they unveiled a plaque and laid a wreath in memory of the victims.

I followed in their footsteps and as I did so I couldn’t help reflecting on the sounds I recorded standing in the rain in Place Jean-Paul II outside the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris on 8th January last year, the national day of mourning.

The Bells of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris speaking for the nation:

What became known as the Charlie Hebdo attacks stunned the nation. At the time, it was impossible to imagine that terror would return to the streets of Paris again later in the year and on a scale that would make the Charlie Hebdo attacks, horrific as they were, seem like a skirmish. But it did.

Things will never be the same again.

Rue Nicolas Appert - Charlie Hebdo

Tributes outside the Charlie Hebdo Office: January 2015

Rue Nicolas Appert

Tribute from the Président de la République and the Mayor of Paris: January 2016

Rue Nicolas Appert

The plaque on the wall of the Charlie Hebdo Office: January 2016

Boulevard Richard Lenoir - Charlie Hebdo

Tributes to Police Officer Ahmed Merabet in Boulevard Richard Lenoir: January 2015

Boulevard Richard Lenoir

Tribute from the Président de la République and the Mayor of Paris: January 2016

Boulevard Richard Lenoir

The plaque in memory of Ahmed Merabet: January 2016

Porte de Vincennes

Tributes at the Hyper Cacher supermarket: January 2015

Hypermarché - Porte de Versailles

The now re-opened Hyper Cacher supermarket: January 2016

Hypermarché - Porte de Versailles

The plaque and tribute from the Président de la République and the Mayor of Paris: January 2016

Rue de Charonne

Rue de Charonne: November 2015

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. hmunro
    Jan 7 2016

    Your summary and analysis of last year’s tragic events is better than most of what I’ve read in the “professional” media — you’ve really captured an important record here. And thank you for again including the memorial peals of the bells of Notre Dame. I doubt anyone who was present that day could have imagined the horrors yet to come. As you say, “things will never be the same again.”

    Reply
    • Jan 11 2016

      Thank you, Heather.
      With horrific attacks at both the beginning and the end of the year, 2015 was certainly a dramatic year here in Paris. All of us who live here will have our own recollections of the events both as they unfolded and in the aftermath. I certainly have mine.
      In 2015, the bells of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris spoke for the nation twice. Let’s hope they don’t have to do so again in 2016.

      Reply
      • hmunro
        Jan 12 2016

        Indeed, Des … may those bells toll only in celebration in the year ahead.

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