New Times Photographer Relates His Experience During Paris Terror Attacks

Phoenix photographer Andrew Pielage went to Paris expecting to fill his memory card with beautiful shots of sparkling stained-glass windows, magnificently manicured gardens, and the Eiffel Tower. But when terrorists shot up a sports stadium, a rock concert, and a string of cafes and bars Friday, killing at least 129 people, he found himself instead documenting a city in mourning. 

Pielage was out with friends when the terrorists struck. While trying to make his way back to his hotel, which was not far from where the attacks took place, Pielage stumbled upon hundreds of people lighting candles and praying together at Place de la République.

There were mountains of flowers. People had typed out letters and poems and posted them at the base of the bronze statute of Marianne, the personification of the French Republican, that stands in the center of the square. On poster board, someone wrote: "We weep. But never fear." 

"There was just something in the air that was thick," he said. "Hundreds of people were there, but no one was talking." 
Mass demonstrations temporarily were banned for security reasons, but such spontaneous gatherings still took place in cities across France. Across the world, people flew the French flag in solidarity with the broken city.

Details about the victims of the attacks, which were engineered by the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) terrorist group, began to emerge Tuesday.

Among them were Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old student at California State University, Long Beach, who was completing a semester abroad, Mohamad Amine Ibnolmobarak, a newly wed 29-year-old Parisian architect, and Lola Salines, a French roller derby enthusiast with a wide smile. Students were killed alongside musicians, engineers, skateboarders and film directors. The victims fit no pattern, other than that they were in Paris.

This is a "moment of pain, of tears, of mourning," said the city's mayor, Anne Hidalgo, "but Paris is still here."

Pielage captured the city's mood as it shifted from carefree to dark despair in an intimate set of photographs that you can view below.

"As a full-time photographer, I've taken pictures in many situations," he said. "This was one of the hardest."