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France

Parisians stand up to fear in the face of Paris attacks

media  
A woman lights up a candle in front of Les Cent Kilos cafe in Paris. Anne-Marie Bissada

Friday's deadly attacks in the French capital hit a nerve among Parisians. Their daily life and way of living was the prime target of the terrorists. But in the face of such intimidation, people refuse to give into such fear.

Visitors to Paris often don't get a glimpse into the daily lives of the people in their respective neighbourhoods, or arrondissements.

Most come to the city for the sights of the known landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées, the Louvre ... the more obvious targets of a likely attack.

But in the case of the deadly assaults that took place on 13 November, the terrorists hit right at the epicenter of Parisian life.

Each neighbourhood is much like a village of its own. And within that village are your local spots: your bakery, your fruit market, your butcher, and in the case of Friday night, your local cafe.

The orchestrated attacks aimed to distrupt this hub of daily life, where many frequented the known local haunts: the restaurants Le Petit Cambodge, Le Carillon, La Belle Equipe and the music hall Le Bataclan.

Joanna, a resident of the neighbourhood describes her daily life in the 10th and 11th arrondissements. Everyday, she comes to this same cafe for her coffee, chats with the servers, and at the end of the day returns to the same places for an evening drink.
It's the same daily routine of hundreds of Parisians in this same neighbourhood, which has now been targeted.

Scrawled in chalk to the entrance to Les Cent Kilos, a corner bistro with red and white awning is Paris est Libre, or Paris is free.

On the door is a note: Fermeture indeterminée (undetermined closure), out of respect for the death of one of its barmen, Romain Didier. Patrons lined up all day to leave candles and flowers to pay their respect to Didier. On Friday night, he was at the Belle Equipe, attending a party.

Toni is one of the chefs at the Belle Equipe. Standing right outside of the restaurant, in a sea of people, he describes the loss:

"In fact, we lost people who, well people who were right there, people killed there and we were all friends. We all worked in restaurants and everyone knew everyone."

Joanna says that they aimed to hit at the heart of their lives, doing what they love to do: go out, be happy, and have a drink. She adds that these people wanted to stop their way of living.

In a statement released by the Islamic State armed group on Saturday, it said it sought to humiliate the French people, likely by targetting the pulse of its daily life and creating an atmosphere of fear.

But to those directly affected by the attacks, their resolve remains intact in the face of such intimidation.

Eli, the head chef at the Belle Equipe was supposed to attend the party at the restaurant on Friday night, but was warned not to come after gunfire broke out. He lost friends and colleagues, all of whom he refers to as his family.

Despite such a loss and with tears streaming down his face, he refuses to give into the fear:

"Obviously we will keep the Belle Equipe open. At least to honour the memory of those [killed]. If we close the place down, they would have won, but no, they cannot win, we will fight them; for sure we will fight them. "

Guillaume, a law student, is also here to pay his respects to those killed at the popular restaurant.

He says while their lifestyle was under attack, the fact that so many people came out in such numbers is comforting.

Not giving into the fear, means moving on, but not forgetting.

Toni from the Belle Equipe, is quick to point this out:

"Well we represent a little bit of the team, the owner, the place itself which clearly will not close. We will remain open. We will fight this. We will put their photos everywhere, and every day, and every year we will celebrate all of this. I don't know what we will call the bar now, maybe the 13th of November? But there you go, I think that is what will happen now. "

And what has already happened on this sunny Sunday afternoon, despite the somber mood, was Parisians were once again filling up the cafés dotting the 10th and 11th arrondissements, and doing what they are known for: sitting outside, having a chat over a drink and watching the world go by.

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