Commentary: So many questions unanswered in senseless attacks on City of Lights

PARIS - A couple of hours ago, I was standing in the heart of Paris, gaping awestruck at the magnificent beauty that is the Notre Dame Cathedral.

I have been on holiday here since Wednesday and have been taking in the sights of the City of Lights.

On Friday night, people mingled freely in Paris, without worry. Many of them were posing for selfies at the cathedral, one of the best known icons of the French capital.

I returned to my hotel after dinner at around 8pm and dozed off at around 10.30pm, vaguely aware that there were plenty of police sirens blaring outside my hotel, which is next to a busy train station.


Pedestrians advising cars that the road ahead may be blocked owing to police operations. Taken at around 2am Paris time. ST PHOTO: CHIA HAN KEONG

At about 1.30am - or 8.30am Singapore time - I was awakened by calls from my worried family. The relief in their voices told me that something serious had happened.

I turned on the television and my iPad, and took in the chaotic situation at my doorstep that had already left more than 100 dead.

My mobile phone rang. It was someone from the Singapore embassy, who I had registered with before I went on my holiday. She advised me not to wander into any restricted areas that the Parisian police may have demarcated.

Outside my hotel, the streets were free of vehicles but plenty of people were gathering along the pavements, looking tense. Some were shouting in French at passers-by, who immediately quickened their paces.

A father wearing the French national football team jersey appeared with his son, both looking grim and tired. A football friendly between France and World Cup winners Germany had played that night at the Stade de France, where three people were left dead and several others injured when two suicide attacks and a bombing were carried out nearby.

The manager of my hotel, Justin, managed a wan smile before telling me: "I think it's best if you stay inside the hotel. It is best not to wander out."

I asked how he felt about the shootings, he smiled again, shook his head and said: "Terrible. Terrible. Why? I don't know."

The prevalent mood right now is confusion.

Why such a sudden attack? Why so many senseless attacks? Why so many dead?

Morning here in Paris might reveal some answers.

Grief will then settle in.

hankeong@sph.com.sg