You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Les Halles, the largest cinema in Paris, 9:45 p.m.

Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images

James Bond single-handedly prevents a stadium bombing in Mexico City by kicking the plot’s mastermind out of a helicopter. The villain sticks metal fingernails in the eyes of a rival. A couple stands up and walks out. Then a second. It really is a pathetic film.  

After a third group leaves, their phones buzzing, I tell my girlfriend to check the news on her phone. She has dozens of missed calls, urgent texts. Bombs have gone off at the Stade de France. After hesitating whether to announce to the remaining audience what’s going on, we decide not to alarm people, and instead creep out.

The metro is out of the question. Every taxi is taken. As we turn onto Rue du Louvre, my girlfriend’s phone rings again. It’s her brother. Shots have just been reported at Les Halles. Have we condemned the rest of the audience by staying silent? We begin to run. 

We pass people huddled over cellphones, others walking hurriedly. We stop to persuade a lady walking toward Les Halles to change direction. On the Pont des Arts, separating the Louvre from the Academie Française, tourists are still marveling and taking selfies. We yell at them as we pass; they stare back.

We almost get run over by a speeding Mercedes. Where is he rushing? Who is he looking for? 

When we reach the safety of my girlfriend’s brother’s apartment on Rue Jacob, in Saint Germain des Près, the adrenaline begins to wear off, to be replaced by dull repulsion. As we turn on the TV, we learn the details of an attack that shocks, but does not surprise. No shooting was confirmed at Les Halles, but hostages are still being held at the concert hall where my girlfriend attended a rock concert last week. Outside, the silence is punctuated by an occasional siren.