Mourning unites France - Tom McRae

  • 17/11/2015
Tom McRae (Paul Henry)
Tom McRae (Paul Henry)

By Tom McRae

The bells of Notre Dame Cathedral today tolled for each of the 129 lives lost. Inside, there was a show of unity - representatives from every region, every religion.

"Men and women were savagely executed, regardless of who they were," says Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris. "Nothing could have foreseen it would have been them and not others."

As the nation mourns, tales of survival continue to emerge - like that of a pregnant woman who dangled from a window of the Bataclan Theatre as concertgoers scrambled for safety.

Australian man John Leader desperately searched for his son, Oscar, after they got separated in the panic.

"I was screaming out his name," says Mr Leader. "I thought he couldn't be far away."

Oscar had taken refuge under a table surrounded by dead bodies.

"I was lying next to one, which was really not in a comfortable position at that moment," says Oscar.

Two Scottish women, Mariesha Payne and Christine Tudhope, were also at the Bataclan Theatre. They took a selfie just before the shooting started; they escaped to the basement.

"We managed to lock the door and just barricade ourselves in, turn the lights out," they say. "We were then trapped there for the next three hours, just having to listen to what was happening, everything from above going on – bullets, grenades, explosions."

Elsewhere in Paris, a British woman escaped the gunfire that interrupted her quiet meal, but a fellow diner was not so lucky.

"I said, 'Are you okay?'" says Charlotte Brehaut. "I looked up at her and she was covered in blood and she had been shot in the chest."

In one of the cultural capitals of the world, their enjoyment of everyday life made them targets.

But the people of Paris are showing resilience, and where there are bullet holes there are now flowers - a touch of colour to lighten one of France's darkest hours.

Watch the video for Tom's report live from Paris.