Wednesday 23 October 2019

Sinead O'Byrne was at her home close to the Bataclan Theatre when the attacks occurred

By Fintan Lambe

SINEAD O'Byrne cycled past the Bataclan concert hall in the 11th arrondissement of Paris just half an hour before Friday night's horrific attacks began.

She was in her house, some 200 metres away from the theatre, when a friend rang her to tell her about the breaking news of the Stade de France attack, and then she realised that what she thought were fireworks, were gunshots.

Sinead, (25), from Ardamine, daughter of Caoimhin and Anne O'Byrne, has lived in Paris for the past three-and-a-half years, and works in a café during the day, and in a bar at night. She visited a friend after work until about 8 p.m. and then cycled home.

'My friend checked that I was at home and told me not to leave,' she said.

Her first call was to her parents to assure them she was okay. 'I was panicking and crying and they were calming me down,' she recalled. Her phone soon lit up with friends checking on her, with automatic gunfire and a loud explosion clearly audible to one caller. The sound of sirens lasted to 5 a.m.

Sinead said she was deeply appreciative of all the messages of support from home.

Her apartment is less than three blocks from where the Charlie Hebdo shooting occurred in January, and Sinead was so shocked at another attacking in the same area. She passes the offices of the magazine every day to get to the Metro.

Tragically on Saturday, she learned that a close friend, Romain Dunay, a teacher of English, and a musician who plays at the open mic night in the bar where she works, was killed in the massacre in the theatre during the Eagles of Death Metal concert.

'I knew on Friday that he was at the concert,' she said. 'His sister said on his Facebook wall that he was missing, and his family went around the hospitals in case he was injured and couldn't speak.' They soon learnt that he was among the 89 people killed after three terrorists entered the building at around 9.40 p.m., leaving a further 99 people critically injured.

Sinead visited the site of the attack on Saturday to lay flowers, and then went to stay with a friend in the suburbs for a few days. She's now back at work in the café, but the city is quiet and subdued.

Despite being so close to two major terrorist attacks, she has no plans to leave Paris. 'It's not an attack on Paris, as it's an attack on society at large. It could have been Dublin, it could have been anywhere. Running away is exactly what they want,' she said. 'I've made a home here, and I've made friends, and we look out for each other'.

'Everyone's been affected, directly or indirectly,' she commented.

'If you weren't directly affected, you're hurt by your country being hurt. Everyone's been incredible. There's incredible solidarity.'

Another young Gorey woman, Chloe Breen, (21), from Ballymoney, arrived in Paris on Friday for a weekend break with her boyfriend Diarmaid Hickey from Kilkenny. 'We were watching street performers when we saw the police cars go by,' she said. 'No-one took any notice.' As they returned to the hotel, they began receiving calls and texts from home. Even the following day, there was security everywhere, and the main tourist attractions stayed closed.

Wexford People

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