November, cool but pleasant. People filled outdoor cafes, sipping espresso or wine. Restaurants were jammed, bars were noisy and fun. More than 80,000 people, including President Francois Hollande, jammed into the Stade de France just north of the city, most of them cheering for France to thump Germany in a friendly soccer match.
Then, in the period of about a half-hour, Paris changed.
At 9:20 p.m., an explosion boomed through the stadium. A suicide bomber had blown himself up outside, killing one passerby. Witnesses said most people in the stadium assumed it was fireworks, and the game continued.
Moments later, at 9:25 p.m., two gunmen stepped out of a black Seat Leon car in front of Le Carillon, a modest cafe-bar with a dirty maroon awning in the city center, and started shooting.
The shooters then walked across the street and opened fire at a restaurant called Le Petit Cambodge, or Little Cambodia. Police said they later recovered hundreds of shell casings.
Stefano, a 30-year-old Brazilian citizen working in Paris as an artist, and seven of his Brazilian friends were having dinner on the terrace of Le Petit Cambodge when the shooting started, according to his wife, Laurine Durand, who is in Paris but was not at the restaurant.
"The next thing he saw was people panicking and screaming," said Durand, 29. "He was next to the door entrance, so he rushed back inside." Like many people who were too shaken or scared to give their names, Stefano declined to be interviewed and asked that his last name not be used.
Stefano saw his friend, Gabriel, lying on the sidewalk covered in blood, so he grabbed him and pulled him inside the restaurant, Durand said. Gabriel had been shot twice in the leg and once in the back, and another friend, Camilia, was shot in the hand and in the breast, she said.
"At that moment he thought they were all going to die," Durand said.
A woman in her 20s said she had been in Le Petit Cambodge during the shooting. On Saturday, she sat crying on the sidewalk near the restaurant, where she left a note that said, "Your lives were stolen and mine was spared. I will forever grieve you."
A woman named Juliette, 32, said she ate dinner at Le Petit Cambodge, then had a drink at Le Carillon, and left 10 or 15 minutes before the attacks.
"We feel lucky," she said. "Like the guy who missed his flight on Sept. 11."
Police said 15 were killed and 10 injured in the shootings at Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge. That included Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, a senior at California State University at Long Beach, who was spending the semester studying in France. She was eating dinner at Le Petit Cambodge with two other American students and one of their husbands when the gunmen arrived; none of her companions was injured.
At 9:30, a second explosion rang out at the stadium, killing a suicide bomber - and the cheering crowd still didn't realize that anything was amiss.
Moments later, on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, gunmen with assault weapons stepped out of the same black Seat Leon and opened fire at an Italian restaurant called Casa Nostra, a nearby cafe called La Bonne Bierre, and a laudromat. They left about a dozen bullet holes in the windows of the cafe and shattered the windows of the laudromat, spraying broken glass across the floor. Five people were killed and eight more injured.
At 9:36, police said, the car pulled up to La Belle Equipe, a popular eatery in Paris's 11th district, an area filled with restaurants and bars.
According to a review in TimeOut Paris magazine, La Belle Equipe, "somewhere between a classic restaurant and a trendy nightspot," has exposed brick walls and is decorated with antique mirrors and movie posters, and has a large outdoor terrace.
The gunmen fired for "at least three minutes," one witness said. "Then they got back in their car."
Police said 19 people were killed and nine more critically injured.
Four minutes later, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside Cafe Comptoir Voltaire, a restaurant on the popular Boulevard Voltaire, with a red awning advertising "cuisine traditionnelle."
A video posted online showed investigators in white suits photographing and examining the tattered remnants of a suicide vest. The video showed remnants of other clothing outside, where people had been spending their evening in typical Parisian fashion, in red-and-white chairs at small round tables. It wasn't clear whether the clothes belonged to patrons or the bomber.
Police said one customer was critically injured.
At 9:40, police said, a black Volkwagen Polo pulled up in front of the Bataclan concert hall, which has been a Paris entertainment landmark since the 19th century. Three gunmen entered the hall and started shooting.
As police were responding, at 9:53 p.m., they received word of a third explosion at the soccer stadium. Police said a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a McDonald's restaurant near the stadium, but no one else was hurt. By then, spectators at the stadium had learned, mainly through messages on their phones, that Paris was under attack.
At the concert hall, meanwhile, the three attackers, who witnesses said were young men wearing black clothes and strapped with tan suicide vests, stood coolly near the entrance, methodically shooting panicked concert-goers, reloading, and shooting more.
American expatriate Helen Jane Wilson, 49, was shot in the leg during the Bataclan attack, according to a Facebook account posted by Mary Sheridan, a friend who visited Wilson in the hospital.
Sheridan wrote that Wilson said she had been standing with a friend, Briton Nick Alexander, when the shooting started. Wilson and Alexander tried to hide, but the gunmen shot in their direction, and at least one bullet passed directly through Alexander and hit Wilson in the leg.
"She tried to get [Alexander] to move and carried out CPR to no avail," Sheridan wrote.
The British Foreign Office confirmed Alexander had been killed.
"Nick was in front of me when we were lying on the ground and somebody moved and they just turned round and started shooting us," Wilson said in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper. "I tried to keep him talking and then I tried to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. . . . Then he couldn't breathe anymore, and I held him in my arms and told him I loved him. He was the love of my life."
Sheridan wrote that Wilson said the attackers had deliberately singled out handicapped concert-goers for execution.
"They corralled the wheelchair spectators on the first floor balcony and shot them each individually," Sheridan wrote.
Wilson runs a catering company in Paris called Rock en Bol. The company's homepage says Wilson has provided catering services for Elton John, the Rolling Stones and U2, whose members laid flowers at the Bataclan on Saturday.
Louis H., 26, said he sometimes works as a technician at the club, but Friday night he went as a spectator, taking his mother to see the California-based rock back, Eagles of Death Metal.
A little more than an hour into the show, at about 9:40, he said he heard what sounded like firecrackers coming from the entrance at the rear of the hall.
"Then a lot of people started screaming, I realized something was wrong," Louis said. "The band stopped playing and the lights went on. Some people were on the ground, some of them were running."
He and his mother had been in the "theater pit," a standing-room area in front of the stage, when the shooting started. He said he grabbed his mother and pinned her to the floor, using his arms to try to protect her head.
"We were lying down on the floor, trying not to move, pretending we were dead," he said. "Meanwhile, we could hear gunshots, screaming, and the gunmen reloading their weapons. I did not look at them. This was the last thing I wanted to do. Looking at them would have increased my chances of dying."
Louis said they lay still on the floor for about 10 minutes, then they heard someone say, "The gunmen are gone."
"I didn't think twice, it was time to escape," he said. "I took my mother by the hand and we rushed towards the backstage exit. On the way, I saw several dead bodies and people injured. It was a massacre."
Louis said that after he got outside, he realized the attackers were still inside.
The French newspaper Le Monde posted video showing many people pouring out emergency entrances, with gunshots heard in the background. Several dead or wounded people are seen in the street, while other people drag bleeding friends away from the scene. Several can be seen trying to climb out windows; one woman is shown hanging by her hands from a third-floor window.
One witness, who identified herself as Jasmine, told BFMTV that the attackers announced their motive.
"They said, 'What you've done to Syrians, well, now you're paying for it,' " she said. "Lots of bodies fell. I ran into a body. And then I went to the bathroom, and when I came out, there were lots of corpses around me. One guy shot me in the ankle. I've never seen as many dead people around me in my entire life. I'm traumatized."
Witnesses said the shooting lasted about 15 minutes, then the gunmen held the survivors hostage for the next two hours. When police finally stormed the concert hall at 12:20 a.m., the attackers blew themselves up.
Police have said at least 89 people were killed there.
© 2015 The Washington Post
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