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A terrifying eyewitness account from a survivor of Paris's Bataclan attack

Policeman patrol near the Bataclan after the attacks Friday.
Policeman patrol near the Bataclan after the attacks Friday.
Photo by Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The hostage situation has ended at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, where attackers in several different shootings reportedly killed at least 100 people tonight. And eyewitness reports from people who were at tonight's concert are starting to trickle out. They're harrowing, and heartbreaking.

The French newspaper Le Figaro has what it says is a firsthand report from an unnamed concertgoer who was inside the Bataclan concert hall when the attack struck. He managed to escape before the hostage situation began, but gave a harrowing account of how the shooting started. Here's how it starts:

C'était le chaos. J'étais sur la droite dans la salle du Bataclan, une chanson de Eagles of death metal était en train de se finir, quand j'entends des bruits d'explosion comme des pétards, je vois le chanteur enlever sa guitare, je me retourne, je vois un type armé d'une arme automatique qui tire en l'air. Tout le monde se couche au sol.

The whole thing's worth reading, but if you don't read French, here's the gist: A song by the American rock band the Eagles of Death Metal had just finished when explosions that sounded like firecrackers went off, he wrote to the newspaper: "I saw the singer take off his guitar, I turned around, and I saw a guy armed with an automatic weapon who was firing in the air. Everyone lay down on the ground. From there, instinct took over, with every round we tried to crawl as far as we could from the shooters."

He tried to get onstage to reach an emergency exit, but it was "a mess," he said — people stepping on each other to survive, terrified, pulling and pushing others with them as they struggled to get behind the stage and find an emergency exit.

Eventually, a member of the staff directed them to the exit — which was on the other side of the stage. They slipped behind the curtain, through the exit, and out into the street.

"We could still hear shots in the street where we were," the eyewitness said. "I didn't turn around. I ran, like everyone else."

With the hostage situation over, many of the survivors went to a nearby bar, where Elise Barthet, a reporter for Le Monde, spoke to some of them:

"When we left, the police told us, 'Don't look.' I haven't heard anything from my father."

The shooters, that witness told Barthet, were in the front row when the police arrived.