S'porean near Bataclan concert hall recalls: Smell of gunpowder was so strong

S'porean near Bataclan concert hall recalls: Smell of gunpowder was so strong
Singaporean Norazia Ali joined other mourners at Place de la Republique on Sunday to remember victims of the attack.
PHOTO: Norazia Ali

For Singaporean Norazia Ali, the acrid smell of gunpowder will forever be associated with chaos and carnage.

She and her husband were watching their daughter's ballet performance at the Bastille Opera House last Friday at about 9.50pm when the city of Paris came under attack.

"I first realised that something was wrong when we were about to leave the building," the singer-songwriter told The New Paper over the phone last night from Paris.

"There was a strong smell of gunpowder. It was so strong it made my head spin."

The Bastille Opera House is just a few streets away from the Bataclan concert hall where Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists killed 89 concertgoers.

Madam Norazia, who is married to a Frenchman and has been living in Paris for more than 20 years, said none of the patrons was allowed to leave the theatre.

The blaring sound of emergency vehicles added to the panic.

A few minutes later, the door was opened and the couple scurried out of the building. At the time, they had no idea about the terrorist attacks.

"My husband and I made a run for it. We knew that if we stayed behind, we would be stuck there."

But Madam Norazia was worried about the safety of her elder daughter, who is in her early 20s, as she was still in the theatre.

"People were running in different directions. Some were crying and even wailing," she said.

"I overheard someone say that 30 people had been shot dead by terrorists. I was panic-stricken. All I wanted to do was check if my two daughters - one was at home at the time - were okay."

On the way home, which is about a 15-minute drive away, she kept sending text messages to her elder daughter to make sure she was safe. Her daughter was evacuated through a side gate by security personnel.

Madam Norazia said news of the attacks hit her hardest when she learnt that three of her acquaintances had been killed. They were people she knew through the music industry. 

SADDENED

"I was deeply saddened when I heard about their deaths. I cannot imagine how much grief their families are suffering," she said.

Madam Norazia, who used to star in Malay children's television shows in the late 1970s, has worked with world fusion music artists Talvin Singh and Transglobal Underground.

She said that she now constantly fears for her family's safety.

"I text my daughters all the time just to make sure I know where they are and that they are safe."

On Sunday, Madam Norazia joined others to remember the victims of Friday's attacks at Place de la Republique near the Bataclan concert hall.

"I saw a child struggling to light a candle for the victims of the terror attacks. When I went over to help, I saw that she had a drawing of flowers and hearts with the words 'I am for peace' in her hand.

"It broke my heart, just thinking about the innocent people who lost their lives." 


This article was first published on Nov 18, 2015.
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