PARIS (Reuters) - Parisians braved the cold and rain on Friday to go for drinks and make sure the lights stayed on in the trendy, multicultural eastern parts of the capital that were hit by Islamist militants only a week ago.
Many of the 130 victims of last Friday’s attacks were enjoying drinks after work on an unusually warm autumn night when Islamic State gunmen sprang from cars and sprayed them with bullets in France’s worst violence since World War Two.
Tension was still high in Paris at the end of a week in which there were scores of false alarms, episodes of crowd panic and a seven-hour gunfight that left the suspected mastermind of the attacks dead.
Though some Parisians were still thinking twice about going out, some 200 figures from the country’s cultural and media elite called on France to continue to have fun in defiance of militants who call Paris the “capital of prostitution and vice”.
“One week on, let’s turn on the lights and light up candles in our cafes, streets, squares and towns and make ourselves heard through the music that they hate,” they wrote in a tribute published in the Huffington Post on Friday.
“Make noise and shine light so they understand they have lost,” wrote the signatories, who include singer Charles Aznavour, journalist Anne Sinclair and ballet dancer Marie-Claude Pietragalla.
Many took to social media to share the hashtag #21h20, referring to the time the attackers first struck last week, and urged people to go out and make noise at 9.20 p.m. (2020 GMT).
On Tuesday, similar calls for people to dine out and fill the city’s cafe terraces were heeded.
In the ethnically-diverse, up-and-coming 10th and 11th districts of Paris where the attacks took place, many of the usual watering holes popular with young people, artists and media types were buzzing with chatter and music on Friday.
At the Barometre cafe one block from the Bataclan music hall, the manager was busy taking orders and getting irritated by the media attention. A sign on the Bataclan still advertised the Eagles of Death Metal concert during which attackers killed scores of people.
“We have quite a lot of people tonight, but we prefer not to talk about what happened. We want to stop thinking about it and that’s why we’ve got a musician playing tonight,” said the manager Joyce Kervran.
Two men outside a youth hostel on nearby Boulevard Richard Lenoir said the neighborhood had been quieter in the first part of the week, but since the nearby Oberkampf metro station had reopened things had almost returned to normal.
“These guys hit this area because it’s lively, young, joyful, all the things they hate,” 65-year-old local resident Lionel Degaraby said.
“A huge number of people died, for a big capital, for the most beautiful city in the world. It’s a big blow, but there is a lot of solidarity,” said restaurant industry worker Olivier Gueguen, 39.
In front of the Carillon cafe and the Petit Cambodge restaurant a few blocks away, hundreds of flowers and candles have been placed where seven days ago young couples and groups of friends were felled by assailants firing AK47 assault rifles.
Smoking a cigarette outside the nearby Maria Luisa pizzeria, Clerc Richard, 30, who works in an Apple store, said he had decided to eat there with his fiancee after drinks with friends nearby to show life carried on.
“We were all shocked. We talked a lot about it with our family, at work, even in public transport. It has created a bond, a bond that wasn’t necessarily there before,” he said.
Information screens near Republique square, where vigils have been held, beamed: “Paris will always be Paris” with an address for a website about what to do in the capital this weekend, replacing the usual traffic and weather messages.
“These Parisian neighborhoods that were hit are truly magical: lively, cosmopolitan, open to all the cultures of the world,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said.
“They have always been a successful melting-pot, and they will remain so,” she told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
Reporting by Michel Rose; Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander, Benoit Tessier, Philippe Wojazer and Gilles Guillaume; Editing by Toni Reinhold; editing by David Clarke