Wednesday 23 October 2019

Gorey woman caught up in Paris attacks lucky to be alive

Sinead Nimah O'Byrne
Sinead Nimah O'Byrne

Sinead Niamh O'Byrne from Gorey was in Paris when she heard the automatic gunfire at the Bataclan from her home in the 11th district.

"I'm home alone. It's Friday night, so normally I would be out, but I have work in the morning, so I decided to stay home and watch a film. I cycled by the Bataclan this evening - there were queues of people waiting to get into the concert, one of whom was a friend of mine who I still haven't heard from.

'I'm home about half-an-hour and I think there are fireworks outside. I pause the film and go to the window expecting to see flashes in the sky. But it isn't fireworks, it is gunshots and explosions.

'I get a phone call from my friend and she tells me about the Stade de France attack and says to turn on the news. It's not getting any easier, it's progressively getting worse, spreading throughout the city.

'I'm shaking like a leaf, I call my mum and she calms me down, but it's lockdown - I can't leave my apartment until the panic is over and President Hollande has declared a national state of emergency and the borders are closed.

'My house is in between two of the areas of attack - the Bataclan and two locations along the Canal Saint-Martin. If I had been out walking I would have been in the middle of it, but I cycle so I'm quicker. I just got home half-an-hour before the attacks started.

25-year-old Sinead who is a former pupil of Gorey Community School said: 'The Bataclan is where the Boulevard Voltaire meets the Boulevard Richard Lenoir - where the Charlie Hebdo attacks occurred. The Bataclan is only three streets away from where the Charlie Hebdo attacks were.

'The 11th is the main 'going out' area. It is the Bastille neighbourhood, which is a very popular area, and Oberkampf, so it's exactly in the heart of the Friday night scene.

"I was at a concert in the Bataclan two weeks ago, so it's strange to think that the fantastic night I had there can be turned into this night of terror.

'I can just tell in the morning that everyone is going to be relating this to Charlie Hebdo - it took about a month to get back to normal.

"I pass by the Charlie Hebdo offices every day to get to the Metro and there are still candles, pens, pencils and flowers on the ground. I'm not French but it affected me. I didn't think about coming home after Charlie Hebdo because I felt that the attack wasn't against me but this is even more frightening. This time they are targeting anyone. I feel like it could be anyone just walking down the street.

'This attack will make me consider coming home, I've been here for three-and-a-half years and I've earned my living here, but I may have to consider it.

'I'm in constant contact with my parents and my brothers right now. My dad has rung me three times already just to make sure that I'm not panicking. They know that I'm on my own and I can't leave or get to my friends.

'I can't think of how lucky I am to be here. I went to visit my friends in their bars earlier today to buy rugby tickets and I could have stayed out, I could have been there, so I'm ultimately quite lucky to be at home and safe. Even if I am right next to where it is all happening, I'm safe in my house.'

Wexford People

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