PARIS (Reuters) - Thirty-five-year-old Didi saved scores of lives on Nov. 13 when Islamic State militants attacked the Bataclan concert hall where he was in charge of security. Now those he saved say they turn to him for solace.
They meet, mostly in cafes, just to be together, to chat and support each other.
“It was just surreal to see him show such composure, and be methodical and efficient, and also so human ... we lapped up everything he said, he was our point of reference,” says Myriam, a survivor who regularly meets up with him.
And while Didi, an Algerian who asked not to give his full name, says he is no hero, Myriam said meeting him is helping her move on.
Like other survivors of the attacks, in which 90 were killed, she sought him out for weeks to say “Thank you.”
“It was very important, it was key for me to feel better and move on with life. Being able to say thank you to someone about that night was something really good. To be able to hold someone in my arms and just tell him ‘you saved my life’,” said the single mother of a 10-month-old baby.
Didi, who has not been back to work since the attacks, is constantly on the phone with survivors.
“Without him, I would not be here. He was the one who told me ‘go there, get out this way, be careful’,” said Franck Auffret, who along with other survivors created the victims’ association “Life for Paris”.
“Someone tried to shoot me when I was in the street, and Didi told me to take shelter. Otherwise I would have stayed in the middle of the street and I would have been shot,” he said as he met with Didi and another survivor in a Paris cafe this week.
Survivors have launched petitions asking the government to reward the security manager for his acts, and sources at the foreign affairs ministry said they were discussing awarding Didi the Legion of Honour award.
Didi explained that like everyone else, he laid down on the floor, turned off his walkie-talkie and then took advantage of a moment when the attackers were reloading their weapons to tell people to head for the emergency exits.
While shots rang out, dozens of people packed into the emergency exit, which led to a small alleyway behind the venue. Didi opened the doors and guided concert-goers to a student residence down the street.
“Helping others and seeing them make progress in their healing process is the thing that’s going to help me get better and heal,” he told Reuters.
Reporting by Pauline Mevel; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Louise Ireland