Cheated death

Woman who pretended she was dead for an hour, and other extraordinary tales of survival from the Paris attacks

“As I lay down in the blood of strangers … waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved”

Isobel Bowdery pretended to be dead for more than an hour, holding her breath, trying not to move or cry. (Facebook/Isobel Bowdery)

The pregnant woman dangling from the window outside of the Paris concert hall. The woman with the blood-soaked shirt she had chosen for the concert that night, and the one who hid beneath rows of concert seats pretending to be dead. The women who were rescued and taken to a hidden basement while gunfire rang out above.

These are among the extraordinary tales of survival and encounters with death from the horrific terrorist attacks that ripped through Paris Friday night.

The image of the pregnant woman dangling from a window high above the street near the concert quickly went viral when it was released this weekend. Though she has remained anonymous, a friend identified by Huffington Post France as Frans Torreele said she and her family hoped to find the man who saved her. They released a statement Sunday night online and soon after, the man got in touch with the family, Torreele said.

The Belgian news source La Province published an interview with a man they identified as Sebastian, the one who helped save the pregnant woman. He told the paper he was desperately looking for an exit when he found the woman in distress at the window, according to the Mail Online. He helped bring her back in through the window until they were rescued by police.

“She was saved thanks to a succession of small gestures, a little bit of attention, and, in this moment of total craziness, these minuscule gestures accomplished big things,” Torreele said. “That’s what my friend wants people to know. It’s hard to imagine how merely holding out a hand, or putting a hand on a shoulder can save people. These people should thank each other, should hold each other in their arms.”

Torreele said her friend and Sebastian had exchanged numbers.

Another concertgoer, Sophie Doran, a 30-year-old Australian woman who was at the Bataclan watching the concert, hid beneath a seat while the shooters targeted audience members, her father told Australia’s ABC News. They waited there, pretending to be dead, for an hour until police arrived, Michael Doran said. “From what she tells me, the carnage as it’s described and the bloodbath seems to be an accurate reflection of what they all saw in there,” he said. “It was a horrible thing, but I’m just pleased my daughter’s alive, my sympathies go out to those people whose daughters and sons and brothers aren’t alive,” he said.

A third woman, Isobel Bowdery, posted a photo of a blood-soaked shirt she was wearing to the concert Friday night when the shooting occurred, along with a Facebook post detailing the horror. Bowdery, 22, said the atmosphere at the concert was “so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling” until the shooting began. She said dozens of people were shot right in front of her. “Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends’ dead bodies pierced the small music venue,” she wrote.

Isobel Bowdery posted a photo to Facebook of a blood-soaked shirt she was wearing to the concert at the Bataclan. (Facebook/Isobel Bowdery)

Isobel Bowdery posted a photo to Facebook of her blood-soaked shirt after attending the concert at the Bataclan. (Facebook/Isobel Bowdery)

Bowdery said she, too, pretended to be dead for more than an hour, holding her breath, trying not to move or cry. A man tried to reassure her and cover her head while she cried. “As i lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you,” Bowdery wrote.

Strangers comforted her on the street and welcomed her into their homes after the shooting.

At the Casa Nostra restaurant, where another of the attacks occurred, a bartender identified by the BBC simply as Safer was standing behind the bar when he heard explosions and the glass in the windows shattered. “I saw two women out on the terrace had been hit. One in the wrist and in the other in the shoulder. They were bleeding really badly,” he said. “I picked them up and rushed them downstairs to the basement. I sat with them and tried to stop the bleeding.”

Safer told the BBC he was a Muslim of Algerian descent who said the attack had “nothing to do with religion,” and called the attackers “criminals.”

Related:

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How to tell your kids about the Paris terror attacks

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