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One Week After Paris Attacks, Life Continues In The Place De La République


And Robert, after a week of reporting from Paris, what is your sense of how the city is coming back from this awful event?

ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: Well, Ari, one reason that I've come to this location is to check in with someone whom I met at the beginning of the week and introduced our listeners to to find out how he's doing. Last Sunday, Mezian Ahmed, Parisian baker and son of a baker, told me about the terrifying events of Friday night. Around 9:30, he was baking, as always, when gunmen sprayed his bakery with bullets.


MEZIAN AHMED: (Speaking French).

SIEGEL: He was open for business the next night because, he said, all people need bread. Baking, he told me, is a noble profession. Well, today, I stopped in to see Mr. Ahmed again, and he told me that he's had a lot of visitors all week.

AHMED: (Through interpreter) There are people that pass by who see the bullets outside and inside and are shocked. But really, there are a lot of people - a lot. Everyone who comes here comes to see me. At the beginning, it was tourists and journalists for the most part, not customers.

SIEGEL: Now, the customers have come back. Through the store window, we look across the narrow street at a cafe that was attacked. The gunfire claimed the life of a young woman who was dining there with friends, Cal State Long Beach design student Nohemi Gonzales. The cafe has been closed all week, but the windows have now been repaired, and Mezian Ahmed is confident that it will reopen.

AHMED: (Through interpreter) Of course. Of course it will reopen because the mayor of Paris came by the day before yesterday. Today, they started cleaning and doing construction.

SIEGEL: When the cafe does reopen, it will be none too soon for Estelle Asayag, who came to the bakery with her friend Josie Tayed.

AHMED: (Speaking French).

ESTELLE ASAYAG: (Speaking French).

SIEGEL: Madame Asayag has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years. She comes to the bakery every day to buy bread and had coffee with her son every day at the cafe across the street. When it reopens, she says, she'll be back. She's not going to start hiding.

ASAYAG: (Through interpreter) We're not in a war. I lived the Algerian war, so I don't want to relive this war. No, we'll come back. If something has to happen, if it's our final hour, that's it.

SIEGEL: People in this neighborhood of the 10th arrondissement obviously won't forget the events of last Friday anytime soon. As for the physical traces of the attacks, the baker, Mr. Ahmed, says the bullet holes in his shop are one thing.

AHMED: (Through interpreter) We are going to get rid of them. We are not going to leave these memories because they are not good memories.

SIEGEL: But his wall clock behind the display case near the cash register is something else. It is stuck.

AHMED: (Speaking French).

SIEGEL: That's the moment of the firing.

AHMED: (Speaking French).

SIEGEL: 9:31 - did a bullet hit the clock?

AHMED: (Speaking French).

SIEGEL: It stopped on its own.


SIEGEL: The second hand is twitching right around the nine, but otherwise, it's been 9:31 and 45 seconds for a week now.

Is he going to get rid of the clock, like the bullet holes? Nope - he says he's going to keep it.

AHMED: (Through interpreter) For now, yes - maybe not forever. Maybe we will move it. But for the moment, no, we're going to leave it like this.

SIEGEL: He says it took him two days to notice that the clock had stopped. He calls it weird. That clock may be stopped but not the bakery.

AHMED: (Through interpreter) Because life continues. We can't stop.

SIEGEL: Baker Mezian Ahmed one week after the attacks here. In Paris, this is Robert Siegel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.