French Expat Talks About Losing A Friend In The Paris Attacks
Joss Leufrancois, 32, was born in Marseille but has lived in Dubai for five years. His school friend, music producer, Thomas Aydan was killed in the shootings and suicide bombings at the Bataclan theatre in Paris. He talks to Lovin Dubai about how the attacks have affected him…
“I woke up on Saturday morning, like many the world over, to the news of the attacks on Paris. I’d spotted a few sympathetic Facebook updates about the capital and decided to check the French news sites. I could feel something bad had happened, and I felt a mixture of shock and confusion, but I wasn’t quite sure of the magnitude. There were talks on social media of a shooting, would this mean three deaths… maybe four or five?
But, as I took in the words on one article after another, read about shootings, suicide bombs and the number of predicted dead, it started to sink in.
My shock turned to panic, as I thought about the five or six close friends who live in Paris, and frantically started trying to contact them. A couple of them had already marked themselves as ‘safe’ on Facebook and eventually I heard from the rest. But I had other friends in Paris – ones I didn’t have contact details for – what about them? I joined various Facebook groups for updates.
As that first day passed, my shock turned to anger. How dare someone do this to my country? Many of my French friends felt the same. I’m a calm, reasonable person who doesn’t like violence, but I found myself toying with thoughts of revenge. How was France going to get back at these terrorists? They deserved to be punished with air strikes. But these feelings soon passed and I now hope that there is another way to combat these terrorists. I was touched by the concern so many people showed when they bumped into me, and the way so many people have changed their profile pictures on social media to show allegiance. It was moving that so many landmarks around the world including here in the UAE were adorned with the colours of the French flag.
As the days passed, I was desperate to do something to help but being here in Dubai I felt removed from my home country. I was just like every non-French expat out here, with no real connection to what was happening. All my friends were safe, I was just watching in, like so many around the world.
This all changed on Monday, when someone posted on a Facebook group checking on the whereabouts of Thomas Ayad, a lovely, friendly guy who I’d studied with and knew well. The messages were of desperation, begging to know where he was. Then someone posted to say he wasn’t listed amongst the dead. It was such a relief. But less than 20-minutes later and someone else posted the words: ‘Thomas got killed’. Suddenly everything felt so close again. The same emotions ripped through me, the thoughts of revenge returned. This was my friend. This was a great guy who had never hurt anyone. I realised this was the way every person who knew each of the victims was feeling. I was overcome with sadness. Tributes poured in on the Facebook page for Thomas and then on the news sites. He was well-known in the music industry and global stars like Justin Bieber and Keith Richards conveyed their condolences. I still can’t quite believe what has happened to Thomas, and in Paris as a whole.
There’s been so much said about religion and the lack of coverage that attacks in other parts of the world receive. My thoughts are that if all the news coverage that France is receiving is helping highlight the hundreds of other terrorist attacks that go on, then it’s still a good thing. In terms of religion, these terrorists are just a small number of extremists and they don’t represent the good people of their religion. What they are doing is putting their fellow innocent Muslims at risk of backlash.
France is all over the news again today, but when I speak to my friends at home, their feelings are not one of fear or hatred. Of course, everyone in Paris is horrified by these attacks on the innocent but they don’t want to be thought of as victims. They’re part of a strong country that is determined to return to normal."