One week after the terror attacks in Paris, Lina Caschetto speaks of the ‘city of love’ with obvious fondness.
“It’s so beautiful, it has so much life,” Caschetto said Thursday from her home in the French capital.
“It was the place for me that was calling my name.”
A graduate of South Surrey’s Earl Marriott Secondary, Caschetto, 31, moved to Paris from the Semiahmoo Peninsula about 18 months ago, to pursue a career in culinary arts.
She was at work as head chef at Pas de Loup – a restaurant around the corner from the Bataclan – on Nov. 13, when gunmen entered the packed concert hall just before 10 p.m. and opened fire.
Eighty-nine of the 130 innocent people who died that night in Paris were killed in the Bataclan.
Caschetto and the 60 or so diners in the Pas de Loup learned something terribly wrong was happening when a friend, his arms covered in blood, rushed in, yelling at people to get back; that he had escaped from the Bataclan and there were men with machine guns.
In a letter to family and friends assuring them she was OK, Caschetto described the shock and chaos; how the blood on her friend’s arms was not his own.
“We were stunned,” she wrote. “People didn’t know what to do. Some sat still, some stumbled over their chairs and each other, others tried to hide themselves under the tables.”
Caschetto recalled pushing people towards the back of the restaurant, seeing people in the street “running in every direction” and sitting behind the metal curtain that shuttered Pas de Loup from the outside, not knowing if it would keep them safe.
“We sat behind our ‘iron curtain’ and we waited,” she wrote. “If someone decided to shoot through it, it would have given us minimal prot
ection but its existence made us feel as if we were in relative safety.
“From there all we could do was wait.”
In a telephone interview, Caschetto described what happened as “horrible” and beyond comprehension.
“So many questions about how and why something like that could ever happen, anywhere,” she told Peace Arch News Thursday.
“We’re coming up on a week tomorrow. Things just feel different. They feel heavy, there’s definitely a sense of unease.
“We’re trying to sort of figure out how to put one foot in front of the other again.”
Caschetto said she was surprised that her letter – posted online Nov. 17 by her stepfather – received media attention when it was reposted online by a Vancouver newspaper. She, after all, was not injured in the attacks, nor does she know anyone who was directly affected. She just felt the need to write about it, to “promote an idea of love, an idea of good energy moving forward.”
“One thing is certain, this is a call for help,” Caschetto concludes in the letter. “There are many people in this world who feel unloved and unvalued. I know we can’t individually care for them all, but we need to show those around us that they are wanted.”
Getting back to life “isn’t simple”, she told PAN, but “we have to just play it day by day.”
“In some ways, I think somet
imes when you experience something in such a way, I think it’s hard to forget it ever happened.
“At the end of the day, we all need to figure out how to move forward.
“All we can do is keep living and moving forward,” she said. “Stopping to visit my favorite cafe in the morning isn’t going to change what happened. So we continue to sit and have our coffee and spend time with the people (we) care about. This is part of how we will heal.”
White Rock senior Ian Routledge – who was in Paris when the massacre occurred – said it’s important to show support for the Parisians.
He said he and his wife, Jan, walked through the streets the next day and met people who said they would not allow the actions of these cowards to interfere with their lives.
“I’ve never been anywhere near anything as horrendous as that,” Routledge said. “It was devastating and you could just see it in everybody’s eyes.
“I want to go back and support those people, they deserve to be supported.”
Routledge added he has been shocked to hear people oppose Canada taking in Syrian refugees based on “fearfulness and prejudices” after the Paris attacks.
“The perpetrators of this heinous act were mostly Belgian and French,” he told PAN. “They certainly were not refugees.
“It’s insulting to the people in Paris. People in Paris are brave and defiant and we’re running and hiding. That’s totally wrong.”