We had gone up­stairs for a drink as the band played — then the shots rang out

De­signer watched from bal­cony as gun­men opened fire, then climbed through a sky­light and across the rooftops

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY NAOMI FIRSHT

JEWISH IN­TE­RIOR de­signer Jérôme Elkaïm was tired of stand­ing in the crowded con­cert hall. He’d been on his feet watch­ing the sup­port act and the band he’d come to see, the Ea­gles of Death Metal, were tak­ing a while to set up.

He de­cided to go to the bar for a drink and then head up­stairs — a de­ci­sion that saved his life.

From the bal­cony, he first heard the gun­fire, then the sounds of panic, and he watched as the band sud­denly fled the stage.

“I didn’t want to be­lieve it. It was unimag­in­able. When I heard the pan­icked screams, that’s when I looked to see what was hap­pen­ing,” said Mr Elkaïm, 33.

“Peo­ple were rush­ing to­wards the front of the room, as if they were try­ing to get away from some­thing be­hind them. I looked over the bal­cony and I saw peo­ple be­ing mur­dered, one by one, in front of my eyes. I saw at least 10 dead bod­ies ly­ing on the ground, and lots of blood. And there were peo­ple who were ly­ing down. It was hard to tell who was dead and who wasn’t.

“I saw peo­ple crawl­ing to­wards the stage. They were crawl­ing over each other to es­cape.

“When I saw that I put my arm around my friend and we crawled be­hind the seats si­lently un­til we came to an air­lock cor­ri­dor. There, we dis­cov­ered a sky­light that led on to the roof.

“There were around 60 or 70 of us. We de­cided the women should go first and we gave each other a leg up to get out. Then I found my­self on the rooftop with my friend. We walked across it and en­tered an apart­ment. Once there, we were safe.

“I didn’t panic. I had some­one to look af­ter, that helped me to look at things in a prag­matic, ra­tio­nal way.

“I didn’t think about the mur­der I

had seen, but about how to es­cape. I was scared but it didn’t pre­vent me from be­ing ra­tio­nal.”

The group — around 70 of them — stayed in the apart­ment with the lights off for around two hours, lis­ten­ing to the re­peated sound of gun­fire.

As he sent text mes­sages to friends to let them know he was safe, he heard the ex­plo­sions as the gun­men det­o­nated their sui­cide belts.

He de­cided not to con­tact his par­ents, be­cause he thought they would be asleep.

A sh o r t t i m e af­ter the po­lice raid, of­fi­cers came to the apart­ment and searched ev­ery­one for ex­plo­sives.

When he was even­tu­ally able to leave, he and his friend went to his girl­friend’s home on rue de Charonne, close to La Belle Equipe café, which had been at­tacked ear­lier that night.

His girl­friend, a doc­tor, gave him pills to help him sleep.

He lives in the Paris sub­urb of Mon­treuil and grew up on Boule­vard Voltaire in the 11th ar­rondisse­ment, just down the road from the Bat­a­clan. His par­ents now live in the 20th and his fa­ther, also a doc­tor, is a reg­u­lar at­tendee of the syn­a­gogue Fon­da­tion Roth­schild.

To­day Mr Elkaïm re­mains quite col­lected. Asked how he feels, he said: “I don’t know. I get the im­pres­sion I’m less shocked than ev­ery­one, I feel like be­cause I saw the at­tack, it was not as bad as watch­ing it on the TV.

“I don’t feel bad, or good, just weird really. I’m okay, but maybe tomorrow I won’t feel okay.

“Maybe it’s the kind of thing that comes back to you.”

Jérôme Elkaïm had gone up to the bal­cony when the shoot­ing started. From there, he and 70 oth­ers fled via a fire es­cape and over rooftops to safety


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