Paris pays homage to victims of 13 November terrorist attacks, six years on

·3-min read

Six years after the horror of the 13 November attacks, Saturday's commemorations are more symbolic than ever, as the ongoing trial of the alleged perpetrators has tested the victims resolve and continues to shape the collective memory of the attacks.

In 2020, the Covid pandemic prevented survivors and victims' families from gathering with a minimal ceremony taking place during lockdown.

This year's tribute is marked by the fact that the long-awaited trial of the alleged masterminds of the attacks got underway in September, reviving the memory of the deadliest terrorist assault ever committed on French soil in great detail.

For Arthur Denouveaux, president of the victims' association Life for Paris: "The trial has brought us all closer together and there is a strong desire to meet in a commemorative setting.

Saturday's commemorations "will crystallise a strengthening of the links between the victims", he said.

Accompanied by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, Prime Minister Jean Castex is due to visit the Bataclan, the Stade de France and café terraces across Paris, where commandos led by the Islamic State armed group killed 130 people and wounded more than 350 in 2015, sending shockwaves through the country.

Shattered lives

Today's series of tributes come just two weeks after the end of the first phase of the trial, where more than 350 civil parties recounted the apocalyptic evening on the stand.

Post-traumatic stress, survivor's guilt, persistent gaps with the rest of society... For over a month, the testimonies of the victims and their relatives have revealed the indelible scars and the extent of the psychological damage of 13 November attacks on hundreds of shattered lives.

To face the rest of the hearings, which is due to continue until the end of May, "people feel that they have to stick together", says Dénouveaux. "Sharing all these experiences on the stand, it also increased the feeling of belonging to a community that has meaning."

Solidarity among the victims

With trial serving as a backdrop in 2021, survivors maintain there is an even stronger need to participate in the commemorations - "the only time when a collective catharsis can take place", according to one Bataclan survivor.

This year, the Life for Paris association is registering about fifty more participants in the ceremony it organises at the town hall of the 11th arrondissement, after the various tributes.

"The trial has undoubtedly reinforced the need to be together," confirmed Philippe Duperron, president of another victims' association, 13onze15 Fraternité et Vérité: "In the courtroom, there were glances, outstretched hands, we felt a lot of solidarity."

His organisation has also registered more participants than usual for the lunch it organises after the official commemoration ceremony.

However, six years after the attacks, the terrorist threat remains very high in France, but has taken new forms.

As the murders of police officer Stéphanie Monfermé in April in Rambouillet, south of Paris and teacher Samuel Paty in October 2020 have shown, it is now carried out by more autonomous, "lone wolf" assailants whose links with terrorist organisations have become much more detached.

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