PARIS — Parisians commemorated Sunday's one-year anniversary of the deadly attacks on the City of Light with silence in solemn ceremonies, remembering a day many say brutally left its mark.
“It’s obvious we have all changed a little. We are less enthusiastic, less optimistic,” said Celine Lemoigne, 34, a teacher in Paris. She noted there will now always be a before and an after Nov. 13, 2015. “Now Parisians carry a little piece of darkness in them all the time.”
French President François Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo unveiled commemorative plaques with the names of all 130 victims at each site targeted a year ago by Kalashnikov-wielding assailants: the cafes and bistros of the 10th and 11th districts, the Saint de France stadium in the northern outskirts of the city, plus the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris.
A minute of silence followed the reading of the names — as families of the victims, first aid workers and police in attendance stayed silent long after the minute was up.
Neither Hollande nor any other French politician spoke at any of the ceremonies, to respect the wishes of the victim’s families who wanted to allow for spontaneous gatherings in the city.
But one person deeply hurt by the attacks did speak: Michael Dias, the son of Manuel Dias, 63, the sole victim at the stadium, where three suicide bombers blew themselves up during a soccer match.
“One year after this night of Nov. 13 that has changed my life, I have been asked how I manage to keep on living after I was deprived of my father in such brutal and unfair manner,” Dias said. “In the face of that loss, only love is left, the love that was transmitted to us, the love that we gave, the love that no terrorist attack nor false divinity can ever take away from us.”
The ceremonies took place under tight security. Many streets were blocked, and people were directed to a security area to be searched along their bags before being allowed to access the ceremonies.
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The Bataclan concert hall — where three Islamic State-affiliated terrorists exacted the deadliest toll that night, killing 90 — was shut down Sunday after reopening Saturday night with a concert by Sting. The nearly 1,500 tickets for the capacity crowd at the concert sold out within an hour after going on sale.
Michelle Pruvot, 56, said she was lucky to get a ticket and be part of bringing life back to the hall again.
“We must continue despite all that has happened,” she said “But we shall not forget.”
Elodie Suigo, 40, a music critic, lost friends at the Bataclan a year ago. She said going to the concert was not easy, but she considered it a duty.
“I was not here last year, but six of my friends were and they are no longer among us. I came for them, because I had to," she said.
"The atmosphere was very heavy,” she added after the concert. "But we are fortunate to still have oxygen to breathe.”
She admitted it would take a long time for the scars to heal, but she stressed, “We have a duty to get on with our lives.”
Still, some thought the Bataclan should stay shut.
Lionel Flagey, 44, said he “was appalled and scandalized” that a concert would take place at the site of such tragedy.
“It’s indecent,” the Paris electrician said. “At the Bataclan, 90 people lost their lives, and we would have liked that it becomes a place for remembrance and mourning.”
For many city residents, the year anniversary was also a reminder of the other attacks in France that followed — especially the 86 people in Nice mowed down by a truck on Bastille Day, July 14. It was a reminder of how vulnerable everyone is now in Paris and elsewhere.
Lemoigne knows that well. She was celebrating her brother’s birthday at a restaurant in the heart of the capital on that night a year ago.
“We weren’t very far away, she said. “It could have been us.”