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Assessing The Devastation, On The Day After The Paris Massacres


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The people of France are in shock and mourning today after a devastating night in Paris. A series of gun and bomb attacks killed more than a hundred people and injured scores. Authorities believe that eight people staged the attacks and they are all reportedly dead. But authorities are still searching for accomplices. The so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, has claimed responsibility. President Hollande has described the events as an act of war. The attacks were on a restaurant, bars and just outside the national sports stadium. The worst casualties were at a concert hall in downtown Paris where hundreds of young people were raked with gunfire. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is at that venue and joins us. Eleanor, thanks for being with us.


SIMON: What's the scene there today?

BEARDSLEY: Well, the scene today is that the police have cordoned off the whole area - a 10-block radius - around this concert hall, which is called the Bataclan. And only people who live, you know, in this area can get through the cordoned off area. And there's loads of journalists - French journalists and journalists from around the world - and satellite trucks. Everyone is sort of camped out here. And there are also just people who live in the neighborhood and people who are just standing here, just in a state of shock, like you said. And as I was coming here, I came across shattered glass at bus stops and blood on the street. And there was a bloody shoe that someone had left behind. So it feels very real what happened here.

SIMON: What are you beginning to learn - what are we beginning to learn - about what - the terrible scene that unfolded there last night?

BEARDSLEY: Yes, what - well, we have heard from witnesses now. And what happened was three gunmen just went into this concert hall while the concert was going on and began firing. People hit the floor. Witnesses say they continued to fire at the people who were lying on the floor. This went on for hours. They yelled in Arabic allahu akbar, which means God is great. And they raved about Iraq and Syria, say witnesses, but it was all in native French. So it was just a horrible scene, and people were just crying and frightened. And there was, you know, up to 80 deaths in that nightclub alone.

SIMON: Yeah. What can you tell us about other attacks across the city at the same time?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, Scott, well it began with - you know, it was a warm night last night, and people were out - it was a Friday night - sitting at a restaurant out at a cafe. And that's how it started. The attackers drove by with Kalashnikovs and just fired into everyone at that outdoor cafe. And there was also an attack on the stadium - the national stadium - where Francois Hollande was watching a game - a friendly game - match between France and Germany - a soccer match. And two assailants blew themselves up with - they were suicide bombers outside the stadium. And everyone ran to the grass to take cover. There was complete chaos. It had to be evacuated. The thing authorities are saying that's so striking is that they were perfectly coordinated.

SIMON: To occur at the same time...


SIMON: ...Which, of course, would deplete the emergency resources the city could bring to it. In the...

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely.

SIMON: ...Thirty seconds or so we have left, President Hollande has called this an act of war. What are Parisians saying to you this morning?

BEARDSLEY: You know, Parisians are saying they just don't feel safe anymore. People are completely shocked. One guy says, I feel like I'm in a - I'm a boxer that's just been knocked out. You know, everyone - it's only been - it hasn't even been a year since the attacks on the satirical magazine and the Jewish store in January. And now here's another attack, tenfold. People really feel fearful, and they feel like it's only the beginning.

SIMON: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in the streets of Paris. Thanks so much for being with us, Eleanor.

BEARDSLEY: Good to be with you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.