Last Friday night, the world watched as news about the terror attacks on Paris unfolded, a devastation that left at least 129 people dead and more than 350 wounded. It was heartbreaking to see these events transpire and watch as Parisians lived the terrifying nightmare. Isobel Bowdery, a 22-year-old South African residing in the city, experienced the unimaginable as a survivor of the attacks. She was in the Bataclan Theater when terrorists stormed the venue and began shooting. By the night's end, more than 82 people were killed.
Bowdery took to Facebook to share her account of the night. In the post, she writes that when the gunfire started, she assumed it was part of the show. “It wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right in front of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. In an instant.”
To save herself, Bowdery pretended to be dead for over an hour, holding her breath while trying not to move or cry. She explains: “Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless. Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry–not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive. But so many didn't. The people who had been there for the exact same reasons as I–to have a fun Friday night were innocent. This world is cruel. And acts like this are suppose to highlight the depravity of humans and the images of those men circling us like vultures will haunt me for the rest of my life. The way they meticulously aimed at shot people around the standing area I was in the centre of without any consideration for human life. It didn't feel real. I expected any moment for someone to say it was just a nightmare.”
Photo source: Isobel Bowdery
As she reflected on the horrible and unreal event, Bowdery writes about the simple acts of kindness and compassion she experienced, shedding “light on the heroes.” This included the friend who brought her new clothes so she wouldn't have to wear a bloodstained top.
“To the man who reassured me and put his life on line to try and cover my brain whilst I whimpered, to the couple whose last words of love kept me believing the good in the world, to the police who succeeded in rescuing hundreds of people, to the complete strangers who picked me up from the road and consoled me during the 45 minutes I truly believed the boy I loved was dead, to the injured man who I had mistaken for him and then on my recognition that he was not Amaury, held me and told me everything was going to be fine despite being all alone and scared himself, to the woman who opened her doors to the survivors, to the friend who offered me shelter and went out to buy new clothes so I wouldn't have to wear this blood stained top, to all of you who have sent caring messages of support – you make me believe this world has the potential to be better.”
Photo source: Isobel Bowdery
In a moving end to her writing, she challenges us to be better people, and “to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfill.”
“To never let this happen again. but most of this is to the 80 people who were murdered inside that venue, who weren't as lucky, who didn't get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through. I am so sorry. There's nothing that will fix the pain. I feel privileged to be there for their last breaths. And truly believing that I would join them, I promise that their last thoughts were not on the animals who caused all this. It was thinking of the people they loved. As I lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you. over and over again. reflecting on the highlights of my life. Wishing that those I love knew just how much, wishing that they knew that no matter what happened to me, to keep believing in the good in people. to not let those men win. Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. To live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfill. RIP angels. You will never be forgotten.”
A selection of likes and comments on Bowdery's Facebook post, including the recognition of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Bowdery's post has been shared over 765,000 times and received supportive comments from around the world.