As he prepares to testify at the marathon trial on the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Bataclan survivor David Fritz Goeppinger spoke to Jowharabout what happened on that indescribable night and how he anticipates facing the defendant as a witness.
When asked how he had felt since the largest trial in modern French history opened on September 8, Goeppinger expressed a sense of relief: “In fact, I thought it would be worse,” said the 29-year-old. by phone.
Goeppinger went to a concert by the American hard rock band Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan concert hall in eastern Paris on November 13, 2015, and found himself held hostage, along with 10 other people, by two terrorists. from the Islamic State (IS) group that had stormed the scene together with another jihadist gunman, killing 90 people. Goeppinger was finally released thanks to an operation by the Brigade of Investigation and Intervention of the French police (BRI).
ISIS jihadists killed another 40 people in and around Paris on November 13, 2015, in coordinated attacks on restaurants, bars and the Stade de France football stadium on the outskirts of the city.
For Goeppinger, there is a kind of ritual in each week of the trial. When he goes to watch it unfold at the Palais de Justice in central Paris, he finds a “core group” of people he has come to know, including other survivors of the attacks, relatives of those killed, and leaders of groups from the civil society.
“It is a kind of fraternity; we are there for each other, “Goeppinger said, while underscoring the importance of this support among the community of people who lived through the November 13 attacks and who” fall apart from time to time. ”
He himself needed to step back from judgment “once or twice” in order to process what was happening. “I allow myself to follow the hearings in my own way,” as he said. Goeppinger also listens to the trial using a live audio streaming platform created specifically for the victims of the attacks.
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Goeppinger was 23 years old when he underwent the Bataclan attack, an experience recounted in his memoir Un jour dans notre vie (“A Day in Our Lives”), published in 2020. In this book he described in vivid detail the supposed never-ending experience of being held hostage and waiting for the police until the BRI finally broke in. Goeppinger also recounted in his memoirs the difficult weeks and months that followed: nostalgia for his native Chile, his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, the sense of camaraderie he has developed with other survivors of November 13 and became a citizen. French in July 2017.
Goeppinger wrote about his experience again in early September, and wrote a series of posts for the news website France Info, looking at each day’s events, the people he meets, and the experiences they relate.
A ‘deformed’ life
Goeppinger, an avid photographer, also posts photos of other victims as they attend the trial, as well as the evocative scenes he finds in the corridors of the Palais de Justice. “I am trying to offer a different perspective than a journalist or victim,” he said.
“When my book was published, I realized that the written word has a certain force that is quite different from the force that photography carries, in which I am more competent,” Goeppinger said. “My approach was to tell the story as the trial progresses from three different angles: that of the writer, the photographer and the victim.”
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In this “logbook” that he writes every day, Goeppinger never mentions the names of the accused, leaving that to journalists. Instead, write about those who have taken the stand, including the witnesses and loved ones of the people killed on that terrible night. “I have a lot of admiration for the people who have used all their reserves of courage to stand up in front of the accused. […] The language of suffering, trauma, courage, love and strength is pushed to its limits, and the courtroom becomes a kind of container for collective memory into which the voices of the victims can be poured ” he wrote in a post Oct. 9 afterward. following the events of that day at the Palais de Justice via an audio link.
Before speaking to FRANCE 24, Goeppinger had just left Paris for a long weekend, preparing for his own moment on the witness stand on October 19. He has been preparing for it with his wife Doris.
“I don’t want to talk about the aftermath,” he said. “I want to approach this event as I lived it, with my memories; the photographic vision that I have in my mind. I want an orderly process. I do not want the accused to enjoy my suffering or that of my wife. ”
The trial is expected to last until a final verdict in May 2022. Until the end of the process, Goeppinger plans to dedicate himself full time to capturing memories of what happened on November 13, 2015 for posterity.
But he still leaves time to reflect, knowing that one day he will have to “hang up the phone” and withdraw from media appearances. Then this former bar manager will decide what to do with the rest of his life, which was brutally “deformed” – as he put it himself – by the events of that night at the Bataclan.
The memories of November 13, 2015 will remain with him forever, something he inscribed on his body when he tattooed the date in Roman numerals on his left forearm: XIIIXIXV. The “V” at the end is something he added to signify that he, along with the four friends who were also present at the Bataclan, survived the massacre that took the lives of 90 other people.
This article was translated from the original in French.