Written by By Hannah Booth, CNN
It was a beautiful spring evening in 2019 — Paris is in the throes of a new marchin’ season, shopping is booming and it’s time to enjoy the Cézannes before the celebration of the Cézannes comes to an end in a few months’ time.
A group of long-nosed teenagers steps into an exhibition of 20th century installations, hung across the hall. They sit down, sing the national anthem and start dancing. They munch on popcorn, their upper lips pressed together.
Spectators look on in silence. They listen to the simple lyrics of “La Marseillaise” and chant the French national anthem in time with the tune, and their mouths form the word “peace.” They are students of a hasty, boisterous school life, growing bored with school and hellbent on partying until the sun sets, all while working on their homework.
Then the music stopped, and what followed in court was something altogether different.
In the middle of the exhibition, four young people, Jordan Tappin, Raphael Dubois, Amelie Soodhi and the ringleader, Mahiedine Merabet, entered a secret room and started stabbing people, leaving the name of the story engraved in bloody form, leading the audience to witness an event several times more terrifying than most war movies, or nightly TV news reports.
More than 10,000 people attended, including many photographers and media from around the world, and from more than 80 countries.
As police looked on, crowds of tourists on the second and third floors looked down at the corridors where the youth were chatting, oblivious to the chaos below, and outside, beneath the Eiffel Tower, the police grilled their parents, bearing knives and balaclavas. As police waited for the next witness to testify, the visitors slowly left the exhibit.
A still from a video shot at the exhibit in St. Germain. Credit: Victoria Corderi
“It is hard to imagine how Parisians have coped with all this,” said Charlotte Murton, a photographer and film director. “I am tired, feel tired, was tired.”
“I’m coming back at noon on Friday, I think I will try to get some sleep,” says Brandon Sanger from Miami, Florida. “I’m going to sleep later at night.”
“It’s scary and not easy,” said Katie Krause from Honolulu, Hawaii. “If that sounds weird, it is because I didn’t expect the Gallic style of heroism. I can’t believe no one grabbed them, who would have?”
“It is sad for the French, they are French,” said Priscilla Garrel-Maccarelli from Marseille, France. “We just get on with it, no one is going to try to stop us.”
“We are Parisians who know how to deal with it,” added Marie Houshou from Paris, France. “People are just trying to see how to live with it, as one would if one was living in a war zone.”