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3Novices:Long road to recovery for Paris attacks survivors

PARIS // Fluctuat nec mergitur: tossed but not sunk. A year after the Paris attacks, the survivors and those who lost loved ones are doing their best to live up to the city's Latin motto and not be dragged under by anger and fear.

There are the wounded - more than 400 of them.

And there are the walking wounded: those who escaped the violence but are nursing deep psychological scars and the 1,000 or so who lost a relative, including more than 50 children growing up without one of their parents.

Each has their own way of trying to heal.

A year "was the minimum period of time for me to recover" and to mourn the dead, said Denys Plaud, 48, a survivor of the attack at the Bataclan theatre. "Like a veteran, I will always have to live with this horrible memory. You cannot make them fade. You can learn to live with them."

Mr Plaud, a maths and physics tutor, wrote a book to process his anguish. Cafe owner Gregory Reibenberg, whose wife died in his arms, also wrote a book, to help their 9-year-old daughter heal, and "to find sense in the senseless". Another survivor turned his flashbacks into a graphic novel, depicting the attackers as skeletons and sprinkled with poignant humour.

"We are the ones left behind, stalked by the same shadow, united by the idea that we must not be killed a second time," said Antoine Leiris, the young father who wrote a poignant, widely-shared Facebook message three days after the death of his wife in the killings, vowing not to give way to hatred.

"I was a sort of totem to which people rallied, a symbol of someone who was trying to pick themselves up. But I'm just a normal person. There are days when I'm afraid, days when I want to flee, days when I want to smash everything to pieces, like everyone else," Mr Leiris said.

In a France 5 TV documentary to air on Sunday, the 35-year-old explores how others bereaved or injured by terrorism - in Paris or elsewhere - have tried to rebuild their lives.

Among those he meets are a woman left raising two children alone, an amputee who shows him the bullet that tore his leg and a Holocaust survivor who taught him it is OK not to forgive.

"At first I shielded myself and my son from the world, because the world had hurt us. But we did not want to remain in isolation. This was my way of re-engaging with the world," he said.

Maureen Roussel, a survivor of the Bataclan attack, gave up her job as a teaching assistant.

"I said to myself that if I couldn't protect myself in the face of danger I couldn't bear to be responsible for children," Ms Roussel said.

A year on, she is still traumatised, constantly imagining more apocalyptic scenes.

"I feel like James Bond, as if everything might explode behind me," she said.

The association Life for Paris, which she founded to help survivors and victims' relatives, acted as a sort of lifeline.

"Before I used to look after little kids. Now I'm helping lots of big kids."

Lea Malwe, a 28-year-old physiotherapist, was hit on two fronts on November 13, 2015.

Her boyfriend - a "handsome, funny, kind" sound engineer she had met in a bar a few weeks earlier - was shot dead in the Bataclan.

Minutes beforehand, the gunmen shot down 14 people at the Petit Cambodge restaurant and Carillon bar restaurant and bar on the corner of her street.

Ms Malwe, who used to boast to foreigners about how safe her city was, has been living "like a robot" ever since.

"What changed for me is that before I expected to become a mum, grow old, become a grandmother and so on, and now, none of that is certain. I know now you can die of something other than old age," she said.

Her one source of solace is "seeing people love each other".

"If, like me, you have the chance of a second life, life is almost more beautiful," said Claude-Emmanuel Triomphe, a senior civil servant who was left bleeding on the pavement after being shot on a cafe terrace.

Mr Triomphe, 58, was drinking at La Bonne Biere when a bullet entered his thigh, damaging his intestine and sciatic nerve.

Another hit him in the arm and fragments lodged in his ankle and foot.

He recalled the "angel" of a doctor who used bar towels to apply a tourniquet and, later, the help of another physician friend, who helped save him from a pulmonary embolism as he was being shunted from hospital to hospital.

After weeks on his back staring at a hospital ceiling he was eventually "turned upright" and strapped into a wheelchair - the turning point.

"I learned to walk again, and I mean really to put one foot in front of the other," said Mr Triomphe, who now gets by without crutches.

* Agence France-Presse with additional reporting from Associated Press



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