The trial marks a ‘crucial’ step in the grieving process

Almost six years after the terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015 in Paris and the suburbs of Saint-Denis, all eyes turn to the historic trial that begins Wednesday, a critical juncture for the accused jihadists. and for the hundreds of victims who long for answers. . But how does France as a whole perceive the events of that gloomy night? Where is the effort of remembrance that followed this collective trauma located today? Jowharspoke with sociologist Laura Nattiez to learn more.

Almost 1,800 plaintiffs, the more than 300 lawyers representing them, hundreds of journalists and 20 people accused: the large number of people involved speaks to the historical nature of the trial for the November 2015 attacks. The deadliest attack on French soil Since World War II it has left 130 dead and hundreds wounded that Friday night in the Bataclan concert hall, on the terraces of the cafes of Paris and at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of the French capital. The next chapter, a trial scheduled for nine months, is cause to explore the scars the attacks left on the collective consciousness of France.

FRANCE 24: Is the November 2015 attack trial an important step in the individual and collective grieving process?

Sociologist Laura Nattiez: The trial is going to be extremely important, both for the direct victims who lost a loved one and for French society in general. Symbolically, a trial is the time for a nation to examine the facts, recognize the guilty and, where appropriate, compensate the victims. One of the main virtues of a trial is situating the facts to understand exactly what happened. The trial for the Madrid attacks (March 11, 2004) in 2007 made it possible to set aside the implausible versions of events. On the other hand, the September 11 attacks in New York, which were not brought to trial, spawned more alternative theories that continue to circulate on social media. Therefore, it is an important step for a society to stop to examine the facts and to recognize the culprits and the victims. It is a crucial step both individually and socially. the [Covid-19] The pandemic has not allowed the continuation of the commemorative ceremonies of the attacks. But the victims seem less attached to them than to the judgment. The loved ones of the victims expect a lot from her.

Six years later, are French memories of the November 13 attacks still as vivid as before?

Nattiez: Among all the attacks that have occurred since the first decade of this century, they are the ones that have left the most impression on the French, according to a Crédoc study. [the Research Centre for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions]. In fact, everyone can tell what they were doing at the time they learned of the attacks, which is proof of the traumatic significance of the events. Such a strong mark on French society is understandable. The high death toll and intense media coverage are not the only reasons why the attacks took root in the collective memory. Because the Nice Truck Attack [of 2016] It was also very lethal, with 86 people killed. the [January 2015] The Charlie Hebdo attacks also received a lot of media attention. But the attacks of November 13 left an even deeper mark on the collective memory because they were the first attacks on French soil that struck blindly. Other attacks targeting journalists [Charlie Hebdo], Jewish people [Toulouse in 2012], military personnel [Montauban in 2012], police officers [Rambouillet in 2021, Magnanville in 2016, Paris on multiple occasions]and a teacher [Samuel Paty in 2020]. The terrorists struck the symbols in front of the people. Hitting anyone during the November 13 attacks provided an opportunity for everyone to identify with the victims.

Inside the special courtroom built for the 2015 Paris bombings trial

But the collective memory has evolved. Over the years, he progressively forgot about the terraces and the Stade de France to retain only the Bataclan. In fact, people often refer to the Paris attacks somewhat vaguely or the Bataclan attacks. Several things explain these memory lapses. It was in the Bataclan where there were more deaths but also more stories that transcribed the event. It was also in the concert hall that the attack lasted the longest. However, it is very important to restore the facts and remember that it was an attack in several places so that the victims on the terraces and the Stade de France are not forgotten. The trial will also be an excellent occasion to return to the events in order to avoid distortions of memory.

Has the daily behavior of Parisians and the French in general changed since the attacks?

Nattiez: A few weeks after the attacks, Parisians obviously still harbored fear when they had to take the metro or enter a public place. They all lived in a daze. Over time, the anxiety lessened. Still, it could be said that a concern persists: when they board a train or sit on a café terrace or participate in a demonstration, Parisians surveyed for different studies say they always have their doubts about the possible risks. Those kinds of thoughts didn’t exist before. They first appeared to Parisians after the November 13 attacks before spreading to the entire French population after the July 14, 2016 attacks in Nice; Those attacks made the French realize that anywhere could be hit. And yet the people surveyed also say they don’t take any particular precautions. They continue to live as before.

Obviously, there is still a wide variety of perceptions. But if I only consider the most recent interviews I conducted with various victims in 2018, a real desire for social cohesion emerges. An inward retreat could be expected but, on the contrary, the people who gave testimony showed a real willingness to raise a united front, despite the fear and pain. When questioned, the witnesses also showed a very clear will not to fall into [the trap of] confuse Muslims with terrorists.

>> November 2015 attacks: Parisians remember a night of terror when the criminal trial opens (Part 1 of 2)

Although those victims clearly expressed their difficulties in living in Paris or in a large city after the attacks, the attacks did not provoke a massive desire among Parisians to leave the capital. It seems to me, and it is only a hypothesis at this stage, that the pandemic and the blockades caused more movements.

Indeed, it would be interesting to see if the health crisis and the lockdowns led to changes in the behavior of Parisians and the French in general regarding these reflections on terrorism. It is very likely that the pandemic has also left a new imprint on people’s consciousness, such as the desire for lightness, to live more intensely. The new series of interviews that I am to begin conducting in September should bring new elements of understanding.

This article was adapted from the original in French.

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