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On A Tragedy's Front Lines: The Paris Attacks, Seen From The ER


We turn back to Paris one more time to talk about the events there. Earlier today, we spoke with Patrick Pelloux. He's an emergency doctor who was one of the first to respond to the terrorist attacks. It turns out that this was not the first time Dr. Pelloux has been on the front lines of a tragedy. In addition to his work as a physician, he is also a writer for the French humor magazine Charlie Hebdo, and he was one of the first responders to arrive at the scene where 12 of his colleagues were killed last January. But he said last night felt very different, with hundreds of people pouring into the city's hospitals. We asked him if he'd ever seen anything like this.

PATRICK PELLOUX: (Through interpreter) Never, never. It's the images of war. Paris was attacked by weapons of war. The attacks by the Stadium of France during the soccer game, one thinks that they were attacking the president of the republic.

MARTIN: He told us he was treating patients whose injuries looked as if they had happened on the battlefield.

PELLOUX: (Through interpreter) The types of injuries, similar to those during war, were mainly in the thorax, the abdomen and the limbs. They were from the bullets and from the explosion, too. They came from the bomb belts, which emitted shrapnel, which injured most of the victims.

MARTIN: We asked him if the Charlie Hebdo attack came back to his mind as he was treating victims last night, and this is what he said.

PELLOUX: (Through interpreter) No, not at all because I was very focused on my work and the necessity to save as many lives as possible. So I didn't think about what happened to Charlie Hebdo during that moment.

MARTIN: But he said this morning he did begin to think about those terrorist attacks and what they meant to him.

PELLOUX: (Through interpreter) I think it's very important for the democracy - France, Europe, with our brothers in America - that we come together against the Islamic State, against al-Qaida and win this war. It's very important.

MARTIN: That's Dr. Patrick Pelloux, a French emergency physician. He was a first responder to both the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this year and to last night's attacks in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.