People observe a minute of silence on Monday outside the La Belle Equipe Café des Anges: A living memorial to its victims Paris
Staff regularly traded back and forth with La Belle Equipe
A short walk from the public mourning in Place de la Republique and the bouquets at each shooting site is a café that doesn’t appear to have any connection to the November 13th terrorist attacks.
But if you go past the round tables lined up along the sidewalk and through the blue French doors on the corner, it becomes clear the Café des Anges is a living memorial to its victims.
Five current and former employees as well as six regular customers were killed at La Belle Equipe, an establishment so intertwined with this one that they traded staff back and forth.
More than two dozen friends had gathered there on the fateful evening to celebrate waitress Houda Saadi’s 35th birthday. They were sitting on the terrace and bore the brunt of the assault when it came. Many are still in hospital. Eleven didn’t make it.
Among the dead are Hodda and her older sister Hamila, 36, bartender Lacrimioava (Lacri) Pop and her partner Ciprian Calciu, waitress Michelli Gil Jaimez, 27, former bartender Guillaume Le Dramp, 33, and regulars Ludovic Boumbas, René Bichon and Hyacinthe Koma.
“Just thinking about it brings back images, very graphic images,” said Café des Anges’s manager Virgile Grunberg.
One invitee showed up late and found police tape and carnage where the party was supposed to be. A pair of brothers dragged their dying sisters from the chaos and desperately performed CPR as they waited for help to arrive.
I spent most of the day with Grunberg and his staff and watched them put on a brave face as the lunchtime rush arrived. They poured coffee, cleared tables and hauled cases of wine up from the basement, all while stopping to chat with those who came by to pay their respects, and greeting regulars with a hug instead of the customary bisous.
“We are all very close, the staff, the customers,” Grunberg said. “This is a neighbourhood café. People come everyday and they tend to spend a lot of time here. We’re all part of each other’s lives.”
Axel, a bartender, put it more succinctly: “we’re family.”
We have always had people that come from everywhere, from every country, every religion. Christians, Muslims, Orthodox, everyone. Café des Anges manager Virgile Grunberg