Paris, mon amour
In memory of all those who lost something on the terrible night of November 13th
This day has finally come! Worldwide celebration for the U2 fans and loads of happy dances spreading all across the globe, as the DVD U2 Live In Paris is released. We’ve been waiting for it for quite some time now, and even though we got a fix with the HBO edition, I think we’re more than happy to finally get the final cut in our houses. We’ll be able to relive those moments til the freakin disc breaks and enjoy all the sweet memories attached to the #U2ieTour.
I don’t mean to get depressing and it might get a bit intense – but as a good friend pointed out to me, it was intense. I always let my emotions as a fan take over my writing, and it’s important to me to recall how important that show was – for all of us. I won’t mind if you don’t read it. I just need to write about it – As a U2 fan, as a music lover and as a French person. I hope a little insight will allow you to see through my eyes why those shows in Paris really meant so much for many of us.
November 13th, early afternoon. What a beautiful day that was. We were strolling around Parisian landmarks with my friend Dawn, who had come all the way from California to attend the U2 gigs in Paris. Some sense of bliss had taken over our minds. We had been waiting for that moment for so long. We were together in Paris, the sun was shining and we had great numbers in the GA line. We kept talking about how blessed we were at that very moment, and how amazing life could be – all because of U2. Obviously, we had no idea that the whole dream was soon to turn into the worse of nightmares…
And the night came. Probably one of the worse nights of my life when I think about it. Our fellow friends of U2 Achtung had thrown a U2 fan party and we were all there having fun and getting ready for the wondrous night to come with the guys the next day. I went out for a smoke and received that first message from a friend in the US, just a few words “Be careful, there’s some bombing in Paris” – what the hell? Dammit… Oh Paris, you suck tonight. I had just lighted up my cigarette when one of the barman grabbed my arm yelling like a mad man “Everybody inside! There’s some shooting a few streets away”. My only reaction was “Oh fuck sake, I just lighted this! Lemme have my smoke eh?” – yeap. That’s the thing, you can’t realize what’s happening because it’s so unreal. You were partying a few seconds ago, and your brain can’t process anything. But soon, you start hearing the sirens blaring, people running and you get kicked out on the streets. Then it strikes you. You have to get the fuck out of this place as fast as you can. Run for your life, literally. You still have no idea what’s actually going on but the increasing messages from your friend and family let you know that it’s not good at all. You try to go on the opposite direction of the police cars and rescue teams… but soon enough, there’s no opposite direction anymore. You’re just stranded in the middle of the mess. No metro, no taxis, no nothing… All you have to do is walk, really fast. Walk away anywhere else but here. At this point, we had no idea what was going on. We only had heard about the first shootings and thought it was an isolated event – we realized the next day that we were actually walking right in the heart of the attacks. And we walked. On and on. Reading the same messages over and over again, ”I hope you’re ok. Get to safety.” It took us 4 hours to get back to safety. But we were far from ok – we had just found out about the Bataclan. And then, the longest hours started. Waiting for news from our U2 friends, other friends, family… basically everyone I knew that was in Paris – until I passed out from exhaustion.
I woke up the next morning sobbing like a baby. I’m not even sure I stopped crying while I was sleeping. So many mixed feelings from glad to be alive, to the sadness of it all. I felt like an empty shell, staring at the wall, trying to process what had happened and was still happening. We had to check out of our hotel and ended up on the streets again. Empty dead streets. I often go to Paris since part of my family lives there and I had never seen the city so empty. As if time has stopped. Fear had taken over and paralyzed every single thing around. We stopped 3 times for a coffee, and we were sent away 3 times because of bomb scares. We met a few U2 friends around the arena, same look on our faces, hardly able to talk. No words. Just waiting for a confirmation that the shows were cancelled so we could get away from the center of Paris as quickly as possible. I just wanted to go home, I just wanted to hug my baby girl and tell her I love her. Fuck all this. It felt like I’d never smile again. Nothing good could ever happen after that.
That’s what those terrorists did. They didn’t just take lives that night. They took families and unfinished stories. They took our hopes, our joy, our dreams away. They took everything that was good in the world. And the “what if” started. What if we had taken the wrong turn on that street? What if we had gone to that restaurant a day later than we did? What if it had happened at the U2 show? What if, what if… The darkness taking over. No strength to fight back. Too hurt to get back on my feet. And yet, something was to happen that night. Something that helped me beyond words.
As always U2 rescued me and gave me that beacon of light I desperately needed. When I saw our four guys showing up at the Bataclan, standing there unafraid, a spark lighted up in me. I had to stand up too. I had to fight back. I’m French for god sake. We don’t go down that easily. The fact that the guys showed up there made me realize how lucky I was to be alive and that there was no way I would live in fear. They gave me a hand and raised me back on my feet. Once more, this band turned on the light when all I could see was darkness. A light holding a promise – they would be back.
To be honest, I didn’t want to go back; I truly didn’t want to be back in Paris – but I knew I needed to. I knew that attending those shows no matter how afraid I was, would be the only way to achieve some sort of closure. That it was the only way to get out of the funk, be “stronger than fear” and let go of the nightmare. And I was right. I won’t say it was easy, I won’t say I wasn’t looking over my shoulder every time I heard something weird and I won’t say that the mood in the GA line was the same as usual. We knew we were up for some really special shows, and partly because we were all in some sort of special place ourselves. We weren’t sure we were safe or everything would go well. And for every U2 fan back in that arena that night, it was truly a leap of faith.
And the miracle occurred. I have no words to describe the emotions I felt during those two shows in December, and how much they meant to me. I remember looking up at the arena during Every Breaking wave and seeing all those lights around. Instant crying. I remember the beauty of those piano keys and the purity of Bono’s voice – and I remember us all. We were all there, unafraid, singing at unison and that sense of unity was the most powerful thing I had ever felt during a gig. The show went on, and Bono gave us his speech about choosing love over fear while Streets was chimming in. Right back to ugly crying because that was it. That very moment was what I had come for.
This explosion of joy, that roar from the crowd and the power unleashed by Edge’s guitar was a true electric shock sending me right back to life. There we were standing up for everything that is good in human beings. Love, hope, art, creativity, music, friendship… Dreaming louder than all the evils we had gone through a few weeks earlier. That was our freakin victory. That was our freakin answer. A celebration of love and life. The sadness was still present but the fear was gone. Completely gone. And when the band started playing COBL and the emotions took over with the names of all of those who had lost their lives that night – I truly understood that Paris was the city of lights that night. And we were those lights.
It was our duty to be stronger than all this and use our voices to drown out the haters. We had to celebrate life in honor of all those people gone too soon. We had to live every second at its fullest to do them justice. And that’s probably one of the main reason why those shows felt so intense for everyone I guess. It wasn’t just about music, it was about taking a stand against hate. It was about being the best of what humanity can be. Chosing love over fear. Letting hope and dreams guide us toward the light. Never surrender, and keep fighting for what is good in this world. It you want to make the world a better place to live in, then do it. Make a choice. Take a stand. We’re the only ones that can remind ourselves that life can be good and that positive attitude can take over any evil.
So that U2 DVD will certainly not be only a DVD to me. Unforgettable memories that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. A reminder of how proud and honored I am to have been there, more than music and memories – it’s a proof I overcame my fears. All thanks to U2 (and a little bit me I guess).
We all lost something on the night of the attacks. Someone, something, ourselves… and yet, I had never been more glad to be a U2 fan than then. Because no matter what I lost that night, some of it has been returned to me during those two shows. They gave me the strength to fight back and they helped me dare dream again. And more than anything else, they reminded me that as long as you chose light, you chose love – and that hope hold within can help you win every battle you go through, and defeat all evils. Choose love over fear. Always.
It’s now definitely the right moment to let go of all this, because after months of waiting – it’s show time.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the U2 fans around the world that supported us while we were in Paris. I received hundreds of messages that night and the days afterwards and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for those. All your kind words helped way more than you think. All of you were part of the beacon of light that helped me get out of the storm unharmed.