Vice have released a sincerely gut-wrenching interview with The Eagles of Death Metal, the Rock'n'Roll band that played the November 13 show at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. They intend to be the first band to play the venue when it re-opens. An hour or so after the show began, terrorists burst into the room and began indiscriminately firing out amongst the crowd. People were dropping all over the place. The band described how much joy and fun people were having, and how devastating and haunting the memory of the evisceration of that atmosphere was. I have friends who seen the same band on the Tuesday before, back home in Dublin, and I cannot even begin to think what if it had been them? Amongst them was journalist Kevin Fagan. "Those people went to the gig just like you," I tweeted him, "they just didn't return home." Kevin replied, "Exactly my thinking. Could happen to any of us."
The band described achingly scenes where fans were risking their own lives and even sacrificing themselves to be with their loved ones. "At first, I thought it was the PA cracking up," affirmed guitarist Eden Galindo, "and then I realized real quick that it wasnt." The terrorist attack was one of several across the French capital in which 89 people were murdered. This included the band's merchandise manager, Nick Alexander who remained silent whilst bleeding to death, as he did not want to alert the gunmen to others around him. One wonders how valiant a human being can be, moments and stories like this, amongst the worst possible scenario, reveal humanity at its finest. Three other colleagues from their record label, Thomas Ayad,Marie Mosser, and Manu Perez were also murdered.
In one of the most gripping parts of the group interview, Matt McJunkins, the bands bass player, described the harrowing predicament of being trapped in a room with other people as traumatic sounds of the slaughter downstairs continued. "Everybody started going up into this room, just to escape the gunfire. Naturally, Instinctively. From my perspective, I see the shooting, I see the pops go off, the lights flashing . . . and I have to make the decision. Do I really want to run across the stage or do I want to go in this room, and hope for the best?" The wounded were bleeding excessively, one woman was shot in the torso and another gentleman was attempting to maintain pressure to keep in her blood so she might survive. The only thing they could use for defense, was a bottle of Champagne, intended for a post-show toast celebration. There was also a leak in the room and it began to flood with water. They worried the blood stream sliding down the stairs from under the door would alert the gunmen. Eventually the gunfire ceased and there was the explosion resulting from the detonation of a suicide vest.
One cannot bear to think of what happened. How honourable people were when they were confronted with their death. How selfless. How noble. How kind.
Really, the horrible and maddening thing about this terrorist attack, is that these innocent dead people, each had their own complex life. They carried the weight of their own ambitions, texted gossip to friends, had neatly crafted routines, made mistakes, negotiated worries, got embarrassed in awkward situations, accumulated personal triumphs, and probably watched, with shock and repulsion, the terrorist attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo earlier this very year. What I am talking about, is the emotional furniture of everyday life. In the lives of these dead people, are our own lives. Terrorist attacks also occurred in Beirut and Benghazi. And one should acknowledge that the West are also responsible for their own number of equally barbaric attacks and violent invasions in Muslim countries. It would insincere if we were to suggest that the attacks in France did not, in a strange way, and at the risk of sounding insensitive and even cruel, appeal to us more. It is because they are our neighbours.
These attacks, in a sense, are on all of us that believe in the right to decent human life and civilization. Perhaps the most tragic thing is that these people died for nothing. However, so many died sowing us the greatest side of humanity in their last moments. We need to confront radical Islam whether it comes from France or Syria, London or Iraq, America or Afghanistan, or wherever these attacks take place. I am suggesting a more openly critical approach to religious fundamentalism. No matter what country it comes from. Freedom of thought and criticism, and an increased scrutiny of the motivations of fundamentalist Islam, or any human rights abuses maintained under the shield of religious belief, should be dealt with. There is a hideous sadness and a terrible anger around what has happened.
My heart goes out to the survivors, and the families of the victims. The Eagles of Death Metal have shown us how to carry on with dignity. They are a group of beautiful human beings. They also have encouraged people who have survived to reach out and contact them at any time. Jesse Hughes made the point, "That from now on, we are all in this together." France, as a country, has been an emblem of Liberty, Equality, and especially, in times like these, Fraternity. I also think of the Le Monde photojournalist Daniel Psenny, who captured that remarkable video of people hanging from window ledges and texting their loved ones whilst laying in a pool of blood, or those dragging the already dead bodies of their loved ones through a lane. Really, there are no words adequate. That video has stuck in my head since I last seen it.
Vive la France.