Black Friday took on an entirely different meaning in France as the still-mourning country’s nets dedicated wall-to-wall coverage to the memorial service for victims of the Paris attacks. In an emotional, defiant ceremony in Paris – attended by several of the wounded, some still in wheelchairs- the names of the fallen were read.
At least 130 people were killed November 13 in Paris in a spate of terrorist attacks across the city, with most of the deaths occurring at music venue the Bataclan, where 89 people were fatally gunned down while attending an Eagles of Death Metal concert.
TF1, France 2 and 3 as well as M6 covered yesterday’s tribute from its morning start, with international channels including CNN and Sky News interrupting their regular programming to air as well. The reading of the victims’ names, accompanied by photos of their faces beamed onto a giant screen, was followed by a minute’s silence, then a solo cello playing Bach’s Sarabande. Songs then sung in tribute included Jacques Brel’s Quand on a que l’amour (When we only have love).
Up to 1,000 relatives and wounded survivors attended the hour-long service, held at Les Invalides. French President Francois Hollande gave a 20-minute address in which he labelled terrorist group ISIS a “death cult” who had “betrayed their God.”
“At this very serious and painful moment when the nation is in mourning I would like to address our compassion… to the families,” said Hollande. “Parents who will never see their children again, children who will never know their parents, couples that have been torn apart….France will be by your side. We will gather together our strength to try to ease your pain… France will do its utmost to destroy this army of fanatics. France will act in order to protect its children.”
In a sign of national unity, France has adopted the Tricolor flag, once the domain of sporting events, as the country seeks to proclaim its values of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite. National anthem La Marseillaise has become ubiquitous across the country on radio and TV.
The parents of Nick Alexander, a Briton killed in the attacks, attended the memorial in Paris and released a statement for the first time on Friday.
“Words cannot express the sadness we feel at the loss of our precious Nick,” the statement read. “This is just the beginning of a long road where we will have to get used to the absence of his physical presence around us – a physical presence that we loved so much, that made us laugh, that we loved being with, and always held us close wherever he was. The outpouring of love from around the world has been a great comfort to us and makes us even more proud to have had Nick as our son. We will love and miss him forever. We extend our love and condolences to all those who have been affected by this indiscriminate act, and are proud to stand with them in unity at the memorial service on Friday. Our lives are intrinsically linked forever.”
Not all the victims’ relatives have been united in their grief, however. The sister of Francois-Xavier Provost, who died in the attacks, lambasted Francois Hollande on her Facebook page for not having shored up internal security in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last January. In an angry post, Emma Provost outlined why she would be boycotting the memorial.
“So no thank you Mr President, politicians, your tribute we do not want,” wrote Provost. “You were partly responsible for what happened to us. It was earlier that there was a need to act. The attacks in January should have been sufficient.”
Meanwhile, on social media, an image of the Tricolor is being widely re-posted in tribute.