Terror At The Stadium

While fans believe they're safe at live sporting events, in Paris, that belief came under attack.

Five days later, France started to bury its dead. The friends and family of Manuel Dias gathered in a small church an hour and a half from the Stade de France Gate D where he died. Manu loved football and working, so much that about seven months after he retired he went back to driving buses and limo-vans. His wife wanted him to quit completely and spend more time with her. Now she sat in the front row, in a hard pew in the town of Cormontreuil where they'd built a life, surrounded but alone. The mourners looked down at the ancient stone floor, or up at the dark wood ceiling, as her cries filled the room.

"Why did they kill him?" she screamed.

Live sports work because people believe they are safe, and in Paris, that belief came under attack. Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN

The priest apologized for the lack of a body. It was "not showable," he said gently, still being held as evidence by police. A portrait stood in place of a coffin. The mourners walked forward to light candles. His son stood up to speak, wanting his father to have the last gift a boy can give. Manu Dias left Portugal at 18, a refugee fleeing a dictator, promising himself that "he'd give his kids the education he couldn't receive," his son said. He became a professional driver, discreet and invisible when working. So ingrained were his habits he remained silent even when taking his family to the airport. Manu really never said much at all, but when his son would pack after visiting his family, he'd always find that his father had shined his shoes. If he could have one more conversation, he told the church, he'd say, "I am proud to be his son, and I will try to shave more often, and I will try to put on a suit for job interviews."

The mayor announced from the pulpit that Manu's name would be added to the town's war memorial, honoring those citizens who died in battle, in trenches and in French cities held by Germans, and in places like Algiers, Kasserine and Dien Bien Phu. Dias, the mayor said, would be listed as a casualty of terrorism, the first victim of the attack on Paris. The crowd silently left the church. They tried to remember the 63-year-old man in the photo by the altar, with oval-shaped glasses and his hair trimmed neat, not whatever vapor and viscera remained. Death by suicide bomber is violent and ugly up close. Organs turn to mist. Vertebrae land across the street. A human being, with all his hopes and dreams, turns into a butcher's trimmings. There's nothing left for goodbye.

The sun came out over the little square outside the church, and the mourners mingled, talking about how Manu never really liked to mingle, and trying to understand how three terrorists attacked a stadium of nearly 80,000 fans and only their friend died. Nobody lingering in the plaza said what they knew deep inside: He died because he needed a boost of caffeine and chose a cafe across from Gate D instead of one of the dozen other bars and restaurants on the east side of the stadium. Maybe he liked the glow of the light or the feel of the chairs. The whys didn't matter anymore, just the what. Five days ago, they woke up as citizens of one world and today they left this church as citizens of another, a world where they might die because they want a coffee, which is to say, they might die anytime, anywhere, for no reason at all.

Paris mourns after terrorist attacks

At the sites of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, makeshift memorials have sprung up to honor the dead. Wright Thompson reports.

ALTHOUGH THERE HAVE LONG BEEN political acts of violence at stadiums, this is the first time terrorists have attacked the gates of one during a game. All these years, it's been a worst-case scenario. Stadiums are soft, rich targets. A minor league baseball game seats as many American casualties as the entire Normandy invasion, and a small basketball arena holds all the Marines killed on Iwo Jima. The biggest football stadiums hold two Gettysburgs. Thousands of people sit side by side, riding public trains and eating in nearby restaurants, on Avenue Jules Rimet in Paris or River Avenue in the Bronx, with no way for authorities to make them secure. The only thing between a pleasant day and Mad Max is a social contract and faith in each other's humanity. Live sports work because people believe they are safe, and in Paris, that belief came under attack.

The first bomber blew himself up at Gate D, killing himself and Dias, the first of the nearly 130 civilians to die. Police found a fake Syrian passport nearby, and are still working to identify the terrorist. According to The Wall Street Journal, a security guard stopped the man from entering the stadium, finding the explosives during a routine frisk. The terrorist arrived with the game already underway. If the bomb had exploded an hour earlier, the area would have been packed shoulder to shoulder with fans arriving to get inside. An hour and a half later, the area would have been filled with the same people leaving. On Monday at a cafe next to the place where Dias died, the woman at the cash register described the attack. "It doesn't make sense," she said. "It was blind luck it was next door and not here."

“The streets are empty. It's fear.”

- Laurore Bernabe, cabbie

The second bomber detonated himself at Gate H about 10 minutes later, injuring several stadium guards but killing only himself. His name was believed to be Bilal Hadfi; he was a 20-year-old French citizen who lived in a housing project north of Brussels before leaving to join ISIS in Syria. Two days later, after police and intelligence agents had swept the scene, an American from St. Louis named Aaron Davis was walking around the stadium. He works in VIP travel for the band U2 and had stayed in town after the group canceled its scheduled show. The area felt a lot like Busch Stadium in his hometown, or any sports-entertainment complex. He arrived before the cleanup crew, taking pictures of blood and jagged chunks of human flesh in the street. Then something caught his eye. He bent down to take a closer look.

It was a piece of a Syrian passport cover, which somehow the crime scene units had missed. Nobody knows for sure but it either belonged to Hadfi or the third still unidentified stadium attacker, which would mean a second terrorist had traveled to France on a Syrian passport. Davis turned the evidence in to the police, and sat with intelligence officers for hours as they questioned him. On Monday he stood at a memorial with a Sharpie marker, writing a message of support on a wall. Nothing seemed real. The world was coming apart, or at least it felt like it last week in Paris, when a guy in a rock 'n' roll road crew found evidence that the combined investigative might of France somehow missed.

Across the city over three hours, the terrorists attacked a stadium, bars and a Cambodian restaurant in the hip 10th and 11th arrondissements, and a music club -- clinically targeting sports, youth and rock 'n' roll. But more than that, they attacked the very idea of Paris, of every city really, of community and civilization, the fragile trust that allows people to walk the street with strangers. This is what Paris defended after the gunfire stopped. The president announced a memorial at the military chapel where Napoleon is buried, and where the bodies of French soldiers killed in action lie in state. Everyone was a combatant now, he seemed to be saying, and old soldiers will tell you the hardest part of a battle comes after you get home. Once you've been in combat, many veterans find, part of you is always at war.

At Place de la Republique, Parisians pay tribute to the nearly 130 who died. Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN

THE DAYS BETWEEN the attacks and the first funeral passed like laughter at a wake. Paris would stand up to this existential threat against itself. Across from the stadium, someone left a handwritten note: "You want my France, my freedom, my humanity. I'm not even scared." The magazine Charlie Hebdo, itself the target of Muslim extremists 10 months ago, published on time, with the headline: They have guns. Fuck them. We have champagne. Paris stopped for a moment of silence at noon on Monday, drivers getting out of their cars on the Champs-Elysees, groups of people gathering outside stores, seeming defiant and unified. People boarded up the shattered windows across from the soccer stadium and put flowers into bullet holes left in windows and walls. In the neighborhood where the shootings took place, sort of the Brooklyn of the city, a street artist painted five men staring into the world, one holding up a glass of wine, another flipping the bird. They leaned at swaggering angles, chins up. Above their heads, the artist wrote: "Paris is still standing."

At night, the bravado seemed to falter, as people moved like pilgrims through a wounded city. A woman pushed her bicycle down the sidewalk with flowers tied to the basket, where a baguette would usually go. The sun began to go down Monday night, and people left their offices and homes and went to pay their respects. At the places in central Paris where the terrorists attacked, memorials of letters, flowers and flickering candles sprang up. People gasped when they first rounded a corner and found one of these shrines, the candles glowing, with hundreds of people side by side. An elementary school student left a drawing: "I'm very sad and mad." The huge mounds of flowers looked exactly like the dirt piled on a freshly covered grave.

Soldiers and cops stood watch. Nobody spoke, the only sound the click of lighters. The emotion of it all overwhelmed people, and they wept silently. The shame of relief passed through the crowds. At the intersection of the first shooting, across the street from the Cambodian restaurant, a pizza place was unharmed. It had been crowded, too. Those who chose Cambodian food died and those who chose pizza lived. The bullet holes left in the walls showed military precision: tight groupings, in three- and four-shot bursts. These were soldiers picking off targets, not wildly spraying the crowd. The spirits of the dead were there with the mourners, in the purgatory of other people's anger and confusion. A young man silently moved through the crowd handing out votives. Even when the windows are fixed and the cafes reopened, these street corners won't feel psychically clean for years. Photographs of the dead stared out from the flowers. They looked young and cocky and safe. Outside one of the crime scenes, a single bistro chair sat with a sign that said, simply, "Why?"

Many of the signs insisted that France would not turn on itself, that the bonds of civilization would survive this assault. Citizens had cause to worry, though; the last time the nation faced something like this terrorist attack, it nearly destroyed itself. During World War II, the Nazi secret police sent fewer than a thousand agents to manage a country of 40 million. They didn't need any more because the French did a fine job of policing themselves, sending at least 3 million letters during the war, informing on people supporting the freedom of France. Up to 10 percent of citizens aided the Resistance while 10 percent actively helped the Nazis hunt and kill their fellow citizens. The silent 80 percent did neither, cowering, doing whatever it took to keep itself safe. History says that everyone standing between citizens and their protective self-interest had reason to be afraid.

Standing by the Cambodian restaurant, a woman with a small can of black paint wrote on a wall in Arabic: "I wish a smile and joy and hope will replace hatred and ignorance."

Another sign said, "We won't change our way of life."

Someone wrote: "I am France. I am Paris. I am Muslim. But I am not ISIS."

Parisians were scared of dying but also of the fear itself, of the corrosive yet seductive power of it, of somehow being changed. As the mourners stood in the candlelight glow, French warplanes dropped bombs in Raqqa and French police kicked in doors in Paris. On a Monday night in a nervous city, its most important civic institutions under siege, those notes seemed less like a plea to save something and more like a eulogy for something that was already dead. Only passing days would tell for sure.

Paris Under Siege

On Friday, November 13th, a team of terrorists aligned with ISIS fanned themselves throughout the city and attacked a sporting event, restaurants in the hip 11th arrondissement, and a music venue. In other words, sports, youth, and rock 'n' roll -- the bedrock of Western cities.

THE SURVIVORS did the math.

A group of three Americans studying abroad, one from Middlebury, one from Bates College and one from Chapel Hill, lived because they passed through Gate D at 9:07.

The attack began 13 minutes later.

Liz Eason, Emilia Calderon and Vanessa Manjarrez had all painted French flags on their faces. Eason, who grew up in North Carolina and stayed close to home for college, had met her two friends at the stadium. She'd rushed from her music history class; in addition to school, she's a concert violinist. Calderon, a student from Bates with a strong fashion sense, had ridden with Manjarrez, a hilarious former queen of the Rose Bowl parade. The three women found their spot in the third row a short time after 9:07.

They heard the first bomb and saw the security personnel looking confused, then heard the second explosion and saw police running around. Calderon thought they looked scared and she started to panic. She grew up in Colombia, during a time when the threat of violence followed them everywhere, so those old memories came back. Her friends tried to calm her down. Their phones didn't really work, but Calderon got a message from their program's associate director: "There has just been a shooting in Paris."

"We are at the stadium," she wrote back. "Please tell us what to do."

"Get out right now," the director wrote.

"It can come from everywhere. There is no place to hide. We’re not safe anywhere.

- Jaida Nemiche

They couldn't. Stadium security wouldn't let anyone leave. Many people, including the players, didn't know what was happening around them. Eason managed to get a short text to her mom. She told her friends she felt safer in the stadium. The game ended, and they made it outside, only to see the crowd in front of them turn and begin sprinting back toward the safety of Stade de France. They thought a gunman was about to shoot them all. They held hands. Inside and safe minutes later, they went down on the field and waited until police cleared the stadium. Nobody ever told them what spooked the crowd into running.

Once outside, they walked through a rough neighborhood to find an open metro station. None of them felt safe: How to put this? They were three very pretty college students on foot in the Neuf-Trois, the postal code of the northern suburbs and a place tourists didn't want to be at night. Manjarrez made a joke about the indignity of getting catcalled while escaping terrorists. Calderon's father called every 15 minutes. Eason's dad answered the phone in North Carolina, and she will never forget how calm he remained. Whatever deep worries Steve Eason felt, he kept them hidden inside. "Elizabeth, are you OK?" he asked. Liz is a college junior, a Tar Heel and a violinist, a confident, smart young woman who helped keep her friends low-key. Elizabeth will always be his little girl. Finally the students got home and stayed up all night, answering messages and really starting to think about what had happened, and what had not, and the tiny space between those two things. They thought a lot about the 13 minutes.

"This past weekend was probably the worst for all of us," Eason says, sitting at a bagel shop near their school, "because we started learning how bad it really was."

"The suicide bomber had a ticket and was trying to get into the stadium from the same gate," Manjarrez says. "If we'd have been 10 minutes later ..."

Eason's parents told her she could come home but urged her to stay for another month until her semester ends.

"My parents said, 'Emotionally, you need to see that you can recover from this,'" she says. "'That you can walk around in the city without having that fear.'"

A ticket window at Stade de France, the first stadium in the world to endure a terrorist attack during a game, near fan entrances. Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN

ALEXANDRA COSSON, 28, arrived at the Stade de France seven hours before the attacks, her first time working security at the venue. She found the office and got her jacket and walkie-talkie and maybe ten minutes later, she stood with another guard at her assigned location: Gate H. Around 6, they started frisking everyone coming in. Her colleague searched the men and she searched the women.

She lights a Fortuna cigarette as she tells the story. It's Monday, less than three days later, and she's back home in her garage apartment behind her grandmother's house. The owner of the stadium security company called her to offer psychological help with the trauma of her experience.

"I refused," she says. "I think I'm fine."

Her day job is running a K-9 unit for the RATP Metro security. The stadium gigs are just for extra money, and she'd never worked at Stade de France before. Her room is filled with pictures of dogs and samurai swords, and she's got a broad, colorful tattoo peeking out from her collar and black fingernails. She's full of bravado now and says the terrorists who targeted the stadium were stupid and inept.

"I don't understand," she says. "It was empty. There was no one. It's a failed attack."

She gives a dramatic thumbs-down and smirks.

"Lame," she says.

She and her colleague heard the first explosion but thought someone had set off fireworks. The radio clipped to her chest stayed quiet. Nobody said anything. A woman from a nearby gate came to her, freaking out over the noise, asking, "Did you hear? What was that sound?"

The woman tightly gripped Cosson's arm. Ten minutes later, the second bomb went off. She saw it. A white ball of light in the street, followed by what felt like a tiny puff of wind on her face, and then a rolling cloud of smoke. Her hearing went out, the only noise a high-pitched whistling. The woman never let go of her arm. Cosson's hearing returned a few seconds later. This time the radio exploded in cross-chatter and noise. Someone said: "Gather everyone inside Stade de France."

Everything came in flashes after that, snapshots. She remembers injured guards at Gate J next to her. She ran up a ramp to an upper concourse, pulling the panicked woman with her. Colleagues field-dragged a wounded guard to the concourse, too, leaving a trail of blood. She remembers faces mostly. A crying teenage girl, maybe 16, with straight blond hair and round eyes. A girl on the steps hugging her father. A guard trying to call her family but shaking so hard that Cosson had to dial the number. The ghost white face of the security company boss when she turned in her radio and jacket after everything ended, leaving by herself from Gate U, looking over her shoulder, terrified to take the train. The rail platform was packed and silent.

"I was very afraid," she says. "I wanted to see my family."

The next day, she went back to work at the RATP. Her radio crackled with reports of abandoned luggage, and she felt panic rising. A homeless man wobbled up to her Sunday night and said he had a bunch of bombs and was going to set them off. She knew he was crazy but couldn't calm herself down. So far she hasn't taken the train to work.

"I will need some time," she says, maybe 20 minutes after she called the attack lame and said she was fine, probably the only person in her life who doesn't see that the attack wasn't lame at all and that she isn't anything close to fine. The rail line between her house and work passes the stadium, which she refuses to see, and being around that many people still makes her uncomfortable. She prefers to take a car. On Wednesday, she says, she is going to take the train. Two more days of being scared. That's it. The day after the attack, when she got showered and dressed, she looked at herself in the mirror and felt like she looked different.

"It changes something," she says.

Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN

Top: Mourners erected a makeshift memorial at the grounds of the stadium. Below: "In the name of what," the note reads, and throughout the bullet-pocked city in the days after the attacks, Parisians tried to turn the horror into something beautiful. Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN (2)

THE BOMBER THAT POLICE believe exploded in a ball of white light in front of Alexandra Cosson lived three and a half hours north of the city in a Brussels suburb. Bilal Hadfi stayed with his single mother, Fatima, on Avenue de Versailles, which starts as a wealthy avenue, with big stand-alone houses guarded by manicured shrubs, turns to middle-class row houses with sensible cars parked out front and then, suddenly, is bracketed by eight-story brick projects. On a wall, someone spray-painted, in French, "Fuck the police."

Bilal smoked and drank, a teenager with a whisper of facial hair, until late last year. Everything he'd tried -- from working on electronics to becoming a driver -- had ended in failure. He stopped drinking and listening to secular music and, in class, he aggressively defended the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo, saying the cartoonists deserved to die for disrespecting Muslims. His teacher didn't understand the sudden anger. The following month, he joined ISIS in Syria.

There's nothing for young people to do around his apartment block, the nearest cafe or restaurant two stops away on the No. 53 bus line. There's a corner store that makes sandwiches and caters to the diverse people living nearby, selling tubes of harissa paste, bottles of African palm oil, Bosnian cevapi, egg rolls, chili sauce and ketchup.

The man behind the counter wanted no part of questions.

"No," he says.

"What's up?" he's asked.

"No," he says.

Residents eyed any strangers wandering the courtyards between buildings, not wanting to talk about their suddenly famous former neighbor. They don't understand it, or much of anything about a normal kid becoming a mass murderer, except that they can feel how different people look at them now. Two in a row say "This is not Molenbeek," the Brussels neighborhood known as the world's hotbed of burgeoning Islamic extremism.

“Every time I hear an ambulance or police, I freeze and my heart stops and I think of what happened.”

- Emilia Calderon

These are not mysterious others who killed 130 people. They are from the same corner of Europe. One of the Paris attackers worked as a baker, and another once risked his life to save five children from a burning building. They cheer for the same teams and went to the same schools and walked the same streets. Many grew up in Belgium or France, at least one in the Neuf-Trois, home to a huge community of Muslim immigrants. They are the children of shop owners and middle-class strivers. Many were well educated. Their families were not religious extremists. Their mothers did not wear headscarves. Bataclan shooter Samy Amimour lived near Alexandra Cosson. In the days after the attacks, Cosson has wondered if she ever rode the same train or ordered coffee in the same cafe.

"I wonder if I could have passed him and not even seen him," she says.

Amimour lived in a middle-class horseshoe apartment building looking down on a quiet park, in the Neuf-Trois but not in one of the housing projects called cités. His father, Azzedine, sells clothes in nearby Saint-Denis. In June 2014, according to Le Monde, he decided to go to Syria and take his son back from ISIS. When the old man, 67 and tired from the trip, reached the Turkish-Syrian border, he called his son, who grew suspicious but nonetheless gave his dad instructions on how to find smugglers to bring him across the border. Azzedine Amimour crossed a minefield and a desert. After a long journey, he finally saw a black flag. He'd entered ISIS territory. The first checkpoint was manned by a soldier with an assault rifle. He found a cybercafe to contact his son, where the ISIS police in a black four-wheel drive detained him, asking why he was not praying, driving him to a mosque. The next day, he met his son. ISIS did not allow them to speak alone, and the meeting was cold and strange. That night, Azzedine gave his son a letter from his mom, sneaking in 100 euros. Samy gave the money back. It took Azzedine two days to get back to Turkey, where he flew home, understanding he'd lost his son forever. He went back to work, heartbroken.

Their apartment sits back in a complex intersection of streets, off a main road named after the Frenchman who governed one of the first colonies in Africa, setting in motion events that would lead to millions of Muslims living in a country that didn't really want them there at all. At 1 Place Marcel Paul, two floors below the Amimour family, a woman named Marie leaned out of her window. She wore a red sweater against the chill. The sounds of children playing floated in the air.

"You have to understand," she says. "This is a normal neighborhood. There are normal people living here. I don't want to read that it's another Neuf-Trois thing. Look around. You don't see people with big beards and scarves. The family are normal people."

A white-haired woman arrives at the door.

Jaida Nemiche works here, taking care of the elderly. "It can come from everywhere," she says. "There is no place to hide. We're not safe anywhere."

She works in the same building where one of the attackers grew up, and her two nephews had tickets to the show at the Bataclan.

One of them got the flu, so they stayed home.

Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN

Top: Paris brimmed with photos of Abdelhamid Abboud, the ISIS mastermind behind the attack. He died in a police shootout and raid on Nov. 19 in Saint-Denis. Below: Residents of Saint-Denis watch the raid on Abboud's safe house. Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN (2)

FRANCE HAD A SOCCER MATCH scheduled against England on Tuesday, in Wembley Stadium, and after many conflicting rumors, officials decided the game would be played. Nobody really knew how the city would react. Would people gather to watch as a political act of defiance? Would this be the release on the pressure building since Friday night? Everyone would have to decide for themselves. The three American college students who'd been in the stadium didn't feel safe enough to go out, so they watched at home. Many people felt the same way. In the neighborhood attacked on Friday night, where the streets normally buzz with revelers wandering from cafe to cafe, most streets were quiet, even for a Tuesday night.

The people who did go out ignored the elephant. In one corner bar, three guys walked in just before kickoff and asked the bartender to turn up the volume so they could hear the national anthem. It began, and they looked up at the television, nonchalant and cool, not singing along. The rest of the bar didn't even break their conversations. Such a typically French reaction was pleasing, and a French journalist looked around and grinned, happy to see something so normal. Jazz played beneath the bar chatter, and the woman at the counter sold cigarettes. A German walked in and found out that a terrorist threat had forced the cancellation of her national team's game that night, along with the Belgium-Spain game.

"It's f---ing sad," she said, disappearing back into the night.

A kebab shop on a popular bar-hopping street had five customers. Normally around 10:30 p.m., it would be packed with hungry drunks. The staff looked around at the empty seats. Cabbies circled, looking for fares in a city where finding a taxi at night is often impossible. Laurore Bernabe grew up in Haiti but moved to Paris 35 years ago. He'd been driving all night.

"The streets are empty," he says. "It's fear."

In the past two days alone, a man who looked Middle Eastern had been removed from a Spirit Airlines flight for watching the news on his phone. Two Paris-bound Air France flights had been diverted. A suspicious bag had caused the main terminal at Copenhagen's busy airport to be evacuated. The French government gave the president sweeping emergency powers for three months, most of them last used during the war against their revolting Algerian colonists that created the rupture in French society now being exploited by ISIS. Habeas corpus is basically being suspended, the prefect of Paris issued and then extended a ban on protests, and the government wants the power to close mosques it deems radical and bar binationals of their French citizenship if they've been convicted of an attack against the state. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, thousands of people took to the streets to march. This time, something felt different. They didn't want to defy the terrorists as much as not be killed by them.

“How do you live with the fear?”

- Liz Eason

The next morning, around 4:30, the police raided an apartment in Saint-Denis, less than a mile from the stadium. It turned into a gun battle, with more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition fired by the cops alone. So many explosives went in and out of a small building on a narrow side street named Rue du Corbillon that an entire floor simply collapsed. Terrified residents described a war zone of smoke and cordite. The dead inside, police said, had been planning another attack.

For hours in Saint-Denis, police kept residents and reporters behind barricades during a showdown with at least one shooter. They continued to exchange gunfire. Deuce-and-a-half military trucks rolled into the suburb, parking near the medieval town square. Troops and SWAT team cops finally killed or arrested everyone and started sorting through the carnage, ultimately identifying Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to have planned the Paris attack.

Outside, the mood was tense and the people of Saint-Denis seemed as scared of the police as the police were of them. The whole thing is a terrible cycle, with everyone's suspicion understandable and yet toxic at the same time. Plainclothes cops questioned two teenagers in a blue hatchback: DWM, Driving While Muslim. One cop wore Nikes and carried a submachine gun. Another held the young men's documents. Nobody smiled. One kid wore gray sweats, and the other had a Bayern Munich Champions League tracksuit. Both had footballer haircuts. One looked terrified, the other defiant. The police let them go. A passerby yelled at the cops in French about brutality. Around the corner, on the main shopping street, residents waited to go home. One stood quietly and held a children's biography of Charles de Gaulle under his arm. A woman argued with a reporter, screaming and starting to cry as other residents comforted her and tried to lead her away.

"It's Francois Hollande's fault," one of the men says.

The woman's voice grows loud and agitated.

"When he pretends to cry when they are dead people," she says, "why doesn't he cry for Syria? When you see kids and they're dead, killed by poison gas, they don't do anything."

Someone tries to shut her up.

"No," another man says, "let her speak."

She's weeping now.

"When you see a 3-year-old that's dead and you don't do anything," she says, "when you see that and now they come to Saint-Denis, it's too much. Our kids are Muslim, and they are the best."

She walks away, and behind her the crowd of locals begins to applaud.

"Bravo!" a man shouts.

Passengers on a Paris city bus peer out of the windows as they pass a memorial in front of La Belle Equipe, a restaurant where 19 people, including the owner, died. Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN

THE THREE AMERICAN college students who entered Gate D at 9:07 find an outdoor table near their school. All had signed a language pledge, promising to speak only French inside the quiet college building, so they went out to talk in English. It is Wednesday, and a few miles away, police are raiding the apartment in Saint-Denis.

A siren goes off, the shrill Euro claxon.

Emilia Calderon and Vanessa Manjarrez flinch.

All three laugh at themselves.

"Every time I hear an ambulance or police," Calderon says, "I freeze and my heart stops and I think of what happened."

"We did get really lucky," Manjarrez says.

Each of them has processed this differently -- they've had conversations about how the stress revealed such essential parts of their personalities -- and they're healing at different speeds.

"We're getting there," Eason says.

"We're working on it," Manjarrez says. "It's an every-day thing."

"For me," Eason says, "I feel fine taking the Metro."

"I don't," Calderon says.

After the attacks, their walk to the metro station took them through some rough parts of Saint-Denis and now they wonder how close they came to the terrorists' hideout. They sense the danger everywhere, even in this shaded warren of boutique streets in the La Madeleine neighborhood, where the Italian restaurants make the streets smell like sage and butter.

"We probably passed their apartment," Calderon says.

"Stop," Manjarrez says.

"I thought about it this morning," Calderon says. "There's been a lot this morning."

"How do you live with the fear?" Eason asks, showing a crack in the stoic facade she's shown her friends in the past few days.

"I can't tell what your situation is," Calderon says.

"I'm fine now," Eason insists. "I'm so fine. I feel fine."

"I've had a few breakdowns," Calderon says. "Last night, I had a breakdown. Bawling my eyes out."

She looks across the lime green table at Eason.

"I didn't tell you," she says.

Calderon and Manjarrez had plans to visit Barcelona in a few days -- they were going with boyfriends, and since Eason is single, she turned down an invite, not wanting to fifth-wheel it -- and after the attacks, they decided to keep those plans. One of the boys had talked about going to watch El Clasico -- Real Madrid against Barca -- on a television at a bar in the city. The combination of football and bars set off something.

"I had a panic attack," Calderon says.

The cancellation of the previous night's Germany match caused them all to panic a little.

"Am I ever gonna feel safe again?" Calderon says. "I hate this feeling of being scared of going out and partying and having fun and smiling. I just had this breakdown that I'm never gonna be OK."

For Eason and Calderon, their time in Paris is almost up. Manjarrez had decided to stay for a full year but now wasn't so sure. Her parents canceled their Christmas trip to France and asked what she'd like to do instead. She didn't hesitate.

"Cancun," she said, smiling, as her friends all laughed.

Even amid such horror, street artists tried to encourage people to say "Je t'aime, Paris." Capucine Granier-Deferre/Getty Images Reportage for ESPN

ALEXANDRA COSSON WOKE UP Wednesday, saw the police raids near her home on television and decided she would not ride the train to work.

She works security for the rail system but doesn't feel safe on a train.

The drive in a car takes twice as long but she doesn't care. Her boss at the security company did tell her she could call a psychologist at any time if she wanted to talk. Right now, she's talking mostly to her grandmother, Jacqueline Cosson, who's 83 and irreverent. The night of the attack, when Alexandra finally navigated the security and crowds and arrived at home, she found her grandmother standing outside waiting on her. Almost at attention.

"Like a soldier," Alexandra says.

They talked until 1:30 or 2 a.m., and Jacqueline described exactly what a bomb sounded like in the moments after an explosion, the whistle and mental strobing, the way the ground shakes and everything slows down.

"You never forget the sound," Jacqueline says. "It stays."

Alexandra was stunned.

"She told me everything I felt," Alexandra would say later.

Jacqueline remembers the last war in France, the German planes droning overhead, and hiding with her family from the falling bombs. She told her granddaughter about taking shelter beneath a bridge and finding a dead woman down there, her hands folded, almost in prayer.


"I was 8," she says. "We were the Syrians. We were fleeing."

They walked out of the city, trying to get away from the false safety of Vichy, wanting to live in a free France. Her father was a soldier. Along the way, a man protected them, gave them food and gave the children toys. She'll never forget his kindness, and she tries to remember that now. He was German. Not all Germans were bad, she tells her granddaughter, and not all Muslims are terrorists. But she does feel like something long buried is returning. "It's very hard," she says, nodding at her granddaughter on the futon. "What they're going through, it reminds me of when I was 8."

The attack at the Bataclan brought back memories for Jacqueline of the Nazis in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, just four days after the Normandy landings. The SS locked about 400 women and children in a church and then set the building on fire, burning them alive, shooting the ones who managed to escape.

"It's coming back," she says, and then she makes the motion of a wheel turning with her hands, or perhaps a ball rolling downhill. "It's the same thing. Let's pray it stops."

Wright ThompsonA senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine, Wright Thompson is a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi; he currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi. Previously, he worked at The Kansas City Star and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In 2001, he graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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Warning: This story contains explicit language.