Victims of the November 2015 terror attacks on Paris began testifying in court on Tuesday, recounting their trauma six years after a night of horror that left 130 dead and dozens more wounded.
Testimony started with the patrol of mounted gendarmes who witnessed the first two suicide bombings at the French national football stadium. The gendarmes, who numbered 13 that night, were working crowd control outside the stadium for the France-Germany match and absorbed the shockwaves from those explosions. Many went home that night with flesh and debris embedded in their uniforms.
Fourteen people are on trial in Paris, including the only surviving member of the self-proclaimed Islamic State group cell that attacked the city on November 13, 2015. Another six people are being tried in absentia.
One man died in the triple suicide bombings at the stadium.
Philippe was among several gendarmes overcome by emotion as they testified. Court rules don't allow the full use of officers' names.
“Gendarmes, police, firefighters, we’re all trained to respond. It’s our job,” he testified. “This evening, what struck me is that we were at the explosion. We had to absorb the shock, understand what was happening and improvise until our normal reflexes kicked in.”
His commander, Jonathan, said he fought his commanding officers for months to get psychological support for the 12 mounted men and women.
“I was alone, facing the unknown and the incomprehension of my direct supervisors,” he testified. “We are gendarmes, we are trained for this. When I see the state this put us into, then I can imagine what it must have done to the victims and their families.”
One by one over the coming weeks, 300 survivors as well as family members of the victims of the murderous assault on November 13 are to take the stand.
The trial is scheduled to last for nine months.