On Friday, November 13, 2015, a series of terrorist attacks, some suicide bombers, took place in Paris, France: at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris; at crowded cafes and restaurants in Paris; and another attack was leveled at the BataclanTheatre in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Because of terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a Jewish supermarket that took place in January, 2015, France was already on high alert. The attacks in November, 2015 were the deadliest since World War II.
On what became a hate-ridden night, Antoine Leiris lost his wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, who was killed attending a rock concert at the Bataclan Theatre. In his powerful retelling of how he waited up that night, with their very young son, for Hélène’s return from what should have been a joyous evening, he narrates a clear recounting of what went through his mind and his heart.
The book was not intended as a guide, an antidote, a help for others who have been victims of incomprehensible violence. The book was a follow-up to Leiris’ letter, posted on Facebook, which spoke directly to his wife’s murderers. It is a first-hand account of a man in the throes of grief and shock, who, over 12 days, had to care for his very young son, deal with his wife's funeral, and with the kind and well-meaning comments of so many other people who meant no harm. With great simplicity he reminds all of us that we are as helpless as the victims. Victims and bystanders are leveled by the depth of hatred that caused such acts of violence against the most vulnerable. The kindest of comments evoke other feelings in Leiris: “I’m sorry for everything that’s happened. Stay strong …” He says, “I don’t have a ready-made response for that. “See you soon” is a promise; “Take care of yourself,” an invitation. But “stay strong” is a life sentence.”
How does someone get past the hatred that caused this loss? His answer is that his wife is no longer alive and her death could have been caused by a reckless driver or a nuclear bomb. However, about the particular circumstances of her death, he states: “I forgive nothing, I forget nothing. I am not getting over anything quickly …” Part of Leiris's response is to turn away and not be consumed by the very hatred that caused these acts.
At the end of this slim, potent, insightful collection of thoughts, Leiris knows that the book “will not heal me. No one can be healed of death. All they can do is tame it. Death is a wild animal, sharp-fanged. I am just trying to build a cage to keep it locked in. … When I turn off the computer, the beast is released.”
The emotions of that dreadful day, some say it was France's 9/11, will be relived begining tomorrow, the first day of the Paris Trial for the November 2015 attack, and will likely continue well into 2022.