Saturday 21 November 2015

Witness to a massacre

Terrorist leader said, "Don't be afraid, you'll die in a few minutes" - Paris attack survivor

The terrorist attacks on France have shaken the whole Western world. More than a hundred innocents were killed, and the worst took place at the Bataclan concert hall, where people just gathered to listen to music...but instead faced death at the hands of jihadists. What was happening there, when the concert turned into a bloodbath? We speak to a man who faced death and survived, a man who was inside the Bataclan hall when it all happened. Pierre Janaszak, a survivor of the jihadist attack on Paris, is on Sophie&Co today.

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Sophie Shevardnadze: Pierre, thank you so much for being with us today, now you are a Paris shooting, Bataclan shooting survivor, you’re also a tv and radio presenter and you work in the field of music. So, that night you were just there…

Pierre Janaszak: To have fun.

SS: have fun.

PJ: To have fun, to make… I just wanted to make my sister happy, because she loves this band. She’s a huge fan of Eagles of the Death Metal, and this band is just fun things, they just joke about things, they want do huge parties, and they were there for that.

SS: You were there just with your sister, or with your friends as well?

PJ: I went there with my sister, with my best friend and with a lot of friends, because we are a really little community of fans of…

SS: Of this particular and?

PJ: Yeah. We know each other, so every time I was there at the entrance was just like “Oh, hello there, how are you”, just trying to have fun, saying stupid things, just as you usual…

SS: And you guys were, mostly, a crowd of, what, 25-40 or what, young people?

PJ: There were a lot of young, young people, you know.

SS: So, you guys had your seats at the balcony, so you were watching the whole show from above?

PJ: I was in the front of the stage, on the balcony, on the left, having fun, drink beers, and we… after 45 minutes or 50 minutes, I guess, we heard the guns.

SS: At what point did you understand, acknowledged that terrorists are inside - because it’s dark, it’s loud, you can’t really differentiate…

PJ: We thought it was just part of the show, it’s fun, those guns, you know, like a funny things from the band, but suddenly the person at the lights just turned the lights on, because they used the guns on her and she fell, and just put all the lights on - so she’s a hero of me…

SS: Because otherwise you wouldn’t have even realised that there were terrorists…

PJ: No, because you’re in the dark, all the sounds, you don’t hear anything, you just hear “tratatata”, but you thought it’s just like… you know, lights and things, just to be fun.

SS: So, at one point, there’s this girl who accidentally turned on the lights?

PJ: No, not accidentally. I’m sure she did that for us. She fell down…

SS: She purposely did it, so that everyone would see…

PJ: ...What happened.

SS: Did she survive?

PJ: No.

SS: So at that point, when the lights go on, you saw the terrorists?

PJ: I saw, first, I saw the band running away really quickly. So what happened: you just take a look, everybody downstairs just going down to protect them, like this, you know. Because this when you see the guy, I saw, one guy with this gun - don’t know if it’s Kalashnikov, it was so huge, and was doing like this - just on everмybody.

SS: So, most of  the people, they went down on the ground, and they kept shooting people who were on the ground?

PJ: Yeah.

SS: Were there screams and panic or people were just try to keep quiet and pretend they’re dead?

PJ: No, everybody was just scared so...there were no voices, no sounds, but a… you know, you don’t think about the time. One minute can be ten minutes or one second - you don’t understand.

SS: You lose sense of time. So, when you see something so horrific and unexpected, because, you know, just there out of blue - what do you do? Do you run or are you frozen, you can’t move? What happens at that point?

PJ: I just ran. I ran, under the chairs, just there, you know, it’s impossible, nobody can do that, but we just do that. I took my sister, because I wanted to protect her, I said “Come on, come on, we have to run”, we run, and we go on the floor…

SS: So, as you were escaping, you were basically crawling down…

PJ: Yeah, and we saw people frozen, like “I can’t do anything”, like this, and you don’t help them.

SS: You just don’t have time to?

PJ: You just think about you and your life, and this is horrible, because you’re a criminal, because you left all those guys, all those people alone.

SS: But at the same time, there’s not much you can do about it, everyone was supposed to sort of react and leave… But from what I understand, it’s not like they had a lot of places where to run from?

PJ: Oh yeah.

SS: Tell about the whole structure of the place.  You were on a balcony, so you could - what, use the security exit?

PJ: So the balcony is like this. The exit is over there. To go on the front the venue, like the normal exit, and you’ve got an emergency exit near the toilets, a huge one, a really huge one, but the terrorists were there. So you can’t get out from there.

SS: Where there big security exit was, that’s from where the terrorists came?

PJ: They were at the main entrance and the security, because they were there to kill everybody, so you can’t go over there, and everybody was just shouting like “don’t go this way, don’t go this way”, they were just shooting, you could hear the guns.

SS: So they were standing at the exits and shooting from there? So that no one could leave at the same time as they were shooting? Am I right?

PJ: Yeah.

SS: So you only had the upper exits left, right?

PJ: The upper exit, if you know them. I know this venue, so I said to everybody: “You have to go there, in the backstage, and if you go down, you can find another exit”. So everybody is just running this way, on the right of the balcony, you can go on the roof, and  over there you can go down on the ground, but I don’t know where, and you can get out from the main exit for the artists, the artists’ exit.

SS: So you were able to go through the artist's'’ exit.

PJ: Yeah. Normally - we can. But everybody was just running this way, so you were after stairs, like this, it’s not the security normality, and it’s really small, and we were just like three hundred, running and up and down, and you walk on everybody, you don’t care about anybody. There was a pregnant woman - I remember that - and everybody was just running on her. They don’t mind. And everybody was just scared. This was the Apocalypse, everybody was just saying: “No, no, no, down!”, and you hear this sound of the guns, they were closer and closer, so you don’t know where to go. Some of the people just want to g to the street, and thinked of their life.

SS: So you can’t think of anyone or anything at that point, you were just thinking about saving your life? There weren't anyone helping anyone, it was just about yourself.

PJ: Yeah, and about my sister, because she’s my sister. But I lost her in the stairs, because everybody was just running, and I lost her and I was thinking that she’s dead, and not because of the guns, but because of the people running on her, and I ran after to save myself. And, believe me, it’s horrible, because it’s my family…

SS: When did you reconnect with her?

PJ: At the end. Forty-five minutes or one hour after getting out of the Bataclan.

SS: Once you were out of it. So, video footage of someone who - I think it was “Le Monde” journlaist who was actually filming how people were jumping out of the windows as well, to escape, from the third floor?

PJ: Oh yeah, that’s where I was, and I was just scared and I was totally frozen, but someone told me: “come here, take my…”

SS: Your hand.

PJ: And he pushed me to the toilets, and he closed the toilets, and I saw a father with his son and this guy, and I was falling on the floor, because I was totally… I lost myself, just on the floor like this, and he said: “Shh!” and now we had to…

SS: Keep quiet, so they don’t hear you were here.

PJ: And we heard guys walking…

SS: So they came into the toilets as well, the terrorists?

PJ: No, but they came in this…

SS: Wing.

PJ: Yes, and in this room, there were toilets, but never catched us - and it’s amazing, because they never tried to open the door, never.

SS: Was this like a security room or something?

PJ: No, this was the artist's place…

SS: The make up, at the backstage. So they thought there’s no one there, right?

PJ: Yeah, but they tried to open all the doors, but not this one. And this is just amazing…

SS: What goes through your head at that point? Do you pray? Do you even think about anything?

PJ: I didn’t pray at this point, but… you’re empty, you’re totally empty. You are not angry, you are just scared, of course, but more that this, you’re totally empty. You think about anything. I didn’t even think of my sister, and just one thing - I was just like “I can’t use my phone”.

SS: Because you were shaking?

PJ: No, because it was making too much noise, and I…

SS: Turned it off.

PJ: I turned it off and I would love to send message to my parents, to say that “I am sorry, I am sorry for all the stupid things that I did when I was young, I’m sorry, I love you” - this time, you just want to say to everybody: “I love you”. That’s all. “Be happy, I love you”. That’s all.

SS: Did you manage to see the faces of the terrorists?

PJ: I saw one of them, but even if you saw someone, you can’t describe the face. For me, I took a look at him, and I saw French, just the French guy, I didn’t see a terrorist, or black or white, arabic. I just see French, it’s just a typical French face.

SS: They were screaming some slogans, right?

PJ: No, I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t hear any religion thing, for sure. For me. Maybe, people downstairs heard more than me, of course, because there was so much noise, but when they were in the room where I was, I heard a lot of things, but no, never…

SS: What did you hear?

PJ: I heard the boss…

SS: Boss of the theater?

PJ: No, boss of the terrorists. There were three guys in my room.

SS: How many were there altogether? Because we hear there were three guys shooting downstairs, are these the same guys up there?

PJ: Yeah.

SS: Ok.

PJ: Apparently, for me, their voices were between 25 years old, 35 - I don’t know their age, because I didn’t look at the TV since, but their boss said…

SS: In French?

PJ: In French, of course, to the free hostages - one woman, her boyfriend and another guy - “Why are you crying? Why are you crying?” And the guy said: “Because I’m scared” He said - “You don’t have to be scared, you will be dead in few minutes, so don’t worry”. And this is horrible. Because, what can you do? You want to hold the girl, and if you go to hold the girl, they will kill the others and you too.

SS: Did they kill him?

PJ: This girl just stopped crying, instantly, and after, they said: “It’s because of Francois Hollande” - our president - “because he attacks our countries”.

SS: Syria? Iraq?

PJ: Syria and Iraq, yeah, and he says: “when you kill terrorist, you kill innocent people, so you are bad. Now, today, we kill innocent people, so you feel the same thing that we feel in those countries”.

SS: Did they shoot that girl?

PJ: No.

SS: She stayed live?

PJ: I don’t know if she’s alive, because at the end, when the special police..


PJ: ...just came, they used the guns on the doors, a part of the door just exploded, and the girl is just like - you know, they used her..

SS: Handcuffs...

PJ: And she was just crying, they shoot somewhere, maybe the girl fell on the floor to be safe, and they just…

SS: Started shooting at terrorist.

PJ: Shoot everybody, one terrorist exploded.

SS: So wait, the whole raid happened in that room, at the bathrooms you were hiding in. So, basically, the final scene of this horrific tragedy took place in that room and you could hear everything?

PJ: Yeah. I would like to say something. Just at the end, the worst thing, the picture that I have in my head all day long, and all time long, it’s this woman, on the floor, with the policemen just there, and they say: “Run. Don’t look at anything, just run”, and she was alive, with all this blood, on the floor, just crying and saying “please help me”, and we walked on her, we walked on her body, and she was alive. So, we are monsters too, and she was just saying “help me”, and we walked on her. That’s the worst thing I had to face.

SS: And no one knows if she stayed live?

PJ: We don’t know, yet, no. I would love to meet here, and if she said me bad things, say: “You are a monster, you did that to me” - I would love that, because it means she’s alive. I would love to kiss here, to hug her, and to say “I love you”, like today, I love everybody, I just love everмybody.

SS: Also, some people were waiting for 2 hours on a roof.

PJ: Yeah. Not on the roof, they went to flat just there. There was a friend who had a flat there, and a lot of them, just went down…

SS: They claimed down and went to the flat.

PJ: Yeah, and they just blocked everything, and there were 20 people in the room, down from me, and they were 3 people in the electricity place, in really small place, too.

SS: Some people have told me that there were other people who were hiding under dead bodies, and pretending they were dead as well…

PJ: Yeah.

SS: And the blood was almost a centimeter deep, on the floor, and they were just lying there, amongst those dead bodies, not making any noise, to make sure that the terrorists think that they were dead.

PJ: Because, if someone wanted to go away, even if terrorist wasn’t in the room - they hear someone moving, “boom”, they kill them. I’ve got a lot of friends staying just on the floor, with the bodies on them, and with the blood everywhere, like they’re in a Apocalyptic film - something you can’t believe it’s possible. All my thoughts go to their families, of course, and the family of the terrorists, and everybody in the music industry and everything, but those people will be psychologically dead forever - because my friends, they can’t speak. They can’t speak. You see their faces, and they can’t say anything.

SS: But there were other security guards before the police, right, in the whole place? There was someone protecting the concert, no?

PJ: Yes.

SS: So how were they reacting to everything that was happening?

PJ: Normally, you got just 2 or 3 guys just walking in the venue, to watch that there’s no drugs, and nobody is hurt, but every policeman for the venue is at the entrance, and when they arrived, apparently they just killed everybody just like this.

SS: So terrorists just killed the security guards.

PJ: When you kill everybody, you can come to the venue, and that’s easy, it’s just like this, and at this moment, they killed everybody, just the man in the merchandising, and there’s the bar on the left, where all the people from the TV and radio are there, because they take here to do concert but they also talk business & drink beers and wine - and they killed all of them like this, and after that they went to… in French, we say “fus”, and they killed the young guys, the young girls, the muslims, the black, the white, there were a lot of different people there, and they killed them. They don’t mind. They are not human.

SS: So, when you were hearing in the bathroom him telling the girl that it’s all because of Hollande, and because “you guys are invading our countries and killing innocent terrorists, it’s same thing as we’re killing you right now” - what happens when you hear those words?

PJ: I want to say something really horrible, and, again, my thoughts go to the families of the victims, but our governments are just doing what they think it’s good, but they kill innocent people - that’s true, and we know that it is sad, but we don’t think about that, we just think about ourselves. So… Yes. He’s right. That’s not an excuse or something, I hate them, and I don’t want to say good things about them, but those words are true, we kill innocent people all the time, because we just care about things that we think that they are good, like Western way of life. Everybody can live like they want, if they respect each other - that’s all.

SS: So, from one side, you have these guys saying what they’re saying, and you’re like “I understand”, but on the other hand, these guys are monsters, doing whatever it is that they're doing.

PJ: Of course, but maybe…I’m sure they’re not faking they’re saying, because what they’re saying is true, but in those countries, the same people kill their brothers - so, you know what I mean?

SS: Yes.

PJ: They say it’s because of us, of course, we are responsible - I don’t know if that’s a good word - but, we are not the only ones, we are doing this to erase the bad guys that are Islamists.

SS: So, now Hollande came out with a speech in front of the Parliament, and he said that they’re going to intensify the fighting against hte IS in Syria, they’re going to pull forces together with other countries to make it even stronger. When you hear something like that, does it scare you? Do you think that France should pull out altogether from this war?

PJ: I’m scared, of course I’m scared. You know, when...yesterday, I was just thinking, this is the end of the world. This is the end. This is the beginning, like of the WWII. Things like this - this is the beginning of the end.

SS: Do you see a suspect in everyone you see in the street right now?

PJ: In the street?

SS: Do you see the world differently now? Do you see life differently? I mean, I don’t know what I would… I mean, I feel like life will never be the same, but I cannot even compare myself to you, because I wasn’t there. I can only imagine what it must be like, living after this. I mean, I would probably suspect everyone around me to be a terrorist.

PJ:  I don’t know if that’s right word in English - I’m forcing myself...
SS:  Yeah, “I force myself.”

PJ: ...To smile and to say: “this is a good person, this is a good person, this a good person” - and I would love to say to you, to the technicals and to everybody just “I love you”. You’re beautiful with your smile. I’m sure you’ve got kids and they’re so innocent and they can smile, so everybody is just beautiful, so when I’m in the street, I’m scared, but I’m sure one day it will be the same thing.

SS: You think it will happen again?

PJ: Oh yeah, of course. Before, when I was outside, I’m not going to lie, if I was with someone wearing maybe the typical radical muslim thing with beard like this - before, I was scared, because of the judgment. I said: “He may be like them” - and this is the beginning of the end. The judgement is the beginning of the end. 

And I say, I don’t have to do that, I’m not a monster, I’m not going to play the same game that Islamists do. I’m going to say to everybody that I love them. Of course, I’m going to be ready, because some people are dangerous, of course, like everywhere in the world, but I’m sure if you’re so positive and all those things - you can give an energy, good vibration to everybody. I’m sure it can be something good, and I’m sure we can change a world like this.

SS: Pierre, thank you so much for remembering this day with us. Thank you so much for your soul that’s larger than life. I think what you’ve said, right now at the end, this is exactly what people need to hear in order to overcome the evil, because it is, in the end of the day, a fight between Good and Evil. So, good luck with everything, and thank you one more time for this amazing talk.

PJ: Thank you.

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