“You never think it will happen to you. It was just a Friday night at a rock show.”
Isobel Bowdery, a 22 year old woman, was one of the survivors of the attack at the famous Bataclan Theatre in Paris. She lay on the floor pretending to be dead for over an hour as dozens of people were murdered in front of her eyes.
The Facebook post she published yesterday relaying the terror of her experience has since gone viral.
When I happened upon it this afternoon in my newsfeed I was at first drawn in by the bloodied shirt she attached to the post. But it was her words, both so articulate and insightful for someone who had just experienced such a high level of trauma, that captured my heart.
She speaks of the disbelief, how everyone at first assumed it was part of the show.
She writes of the heart-wrenching cries of grief stricken event goers who held their dead lovers in their arms. And she addresses the multitude of strangers who became her heroes:
“You never think it will happen to you. It was just a friday night at a rock show. the atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling. and then when the men came through the front entrance and began the shooting, we naively believed it was all part of the show. It wasn’t just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre.
Dozens of people were shot right in front of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. in an instant.
Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless…Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry—not giving those men the fear they longed to see.
I was incredibly lucky to survive. But so many didn’t. The people who had been there for the exact same reasons as I—to have a fun friday night were innocent. This world is cruel. And acts like this are suppose to highlight the depravity of humans and the images of those men circling us like vultures will haunt me for the rest of my life.
The way they meticulously aimed at shot people around the standing area i was in the centre of without any consideration for human life. It didn’t feel real. i expected any moment for someone to say it was just a nightmare.
But being a survivor of this horror lets me able to shed light on the heroes. To the man who reassured me and put his life on line to try and cover my brain whilst i whimpered, to the couple whose last words of love kept me believing the good in the world, to the police who succeeded in rescuing hundreds of people, to the complete strangers who picked me up from the road and consoled me during the 45 minutes I truly believed the boy i loved was dead, to the injured man who i had mistaken for him and then on my recognition that he was not Amaury, held me and told me everything was going to be fine despite being all alone and scared himself, to the woman who opened her doors to the survivors, to the friend who offered me shelter and went out to buy new clothes so i wouldn’t have to wear this blood stained top, to all of you who have sent caring messages of support—you make me believe this world has the potential to be better. to never let this happen again. but most of this is to the 80 people who were murdered inside that venue, who weren’t as lucky, who didn’t get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through.
I am so sorry. There’s nothing that will fix the pain.
I feel privileged to (have) be(en) there for their last breaths. And truly believing that I would join them, I promise that their last thoughts were not on the animals who caused all this. It was thinking of the people they loved. As i lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you. over and over again. reflecting on the highlights of my life. Wishing that those i love knew just how much, wishing that they knew that no matter what happened to me, to keepbelieving in the good in people. to not let those men win.
Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfil. RIP angels. You will never be forgotten.”
What stands out to me here is the lack of venom in her words, the lack of emphasis on the people who did this—even though her pain and anger is evident.
Instead, what she writes about is love, connection and the deep bond that is forged when humanity is called to action in the wake of a tragedy.
She bears witness to the care of strangers, those who stepped in and offered her clothing and opened their doors, the assistance of the emergency services who saved so many lives, and all the people who reassured and consoled her.
Most beautifully of all she offers solace to those families who are left grieving and calls to us all to honour the lost lives by being better people ourselves.
I truly hope that the world reads her words and feels as moved by them as I have.
By focusing on our challenges and traumas as benevolently as Isobel has after facing such a horrific experience, surely we have the capacity to shift the very fabric of our society.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
Author: Sarah Kolkka
Editor: Renée Picard