Alejandro Alvarez

Paris Attacked

Alejandro Alvarez

I was finishing up a report for my internship when news broke of a commotion in central Paris, near France's largest stadium. 

Like a lot of major stories, there's isn't a ton of verifiable info to go off initially. Reports ranged from a robbery gone wrong to a lone gunman at a restaurant in front of the Stade the France. Still, especially given what had happened at Charlie Hebdo in January, something about this screamed more than just petty crime from the get-go. I kept an eye on it, and as soon as more reports of shootings elsewhere in the city started to come in, it was obvious something huge and horrible was going on.

Eyewitness video started to come in almost immediately. Using Twitter's advanced search, I found a few multimedia tweets geolocated to Rue de Charonne, across the city from Stade de France. 

Local journalists started tweeting photos of Paris' streets, deserted on what should otherwise have been a busy night.

Meanwhile, news broke of another horror: multiple French-language media began quoting police sources as saying more than one hundred had been taken hostage at the Bataclan concert hall, on the Rue de Charonne. If there had ever been any doubt Paris was under organized attack, by this point it was gone.

As gunfire broke out elsewhere across the city, I looked back for footage from the soccer game which was being held inside the Stade de France during the first attack. I found somebody had tweeted a Vine video of the sports broadcast, where you can clearly hear an explosion in the distance.

Meanwhile, police sealed-off the area around Stade the France. Panicked fans began to wander the field, unable to leave, as they received word of what was happening outside. 

Higher-quality photos from the first attack scene began to percolate across the news wires.

A short time later, President Obama addressed the nation. 

I was in touch with a friend on campus, who sent me a photo of students gathered around the TV in the School of International Service watching Obama speak:

A short while later, French President Hollande followed-up with a drastic announcement:

The standoff at Bataclan eventually ended with the gunmen either killed by police or suicide vest. Dozens were killed, and the world in shock as photos emerged of the dead and wounded.

Even in all of the horror, the French people stayed resilient. Whenever there's a major breaking news story like this, I try to focus on the immediate reaction from the people who are most impacted. I found a video of soccer fans singing the French national anthem while being evacuated from Stade de France:

I've found that local newspaper front pages and headlines are another way to gauge how a nation reacts to a crisis. A day after the chaos, French papers were rife with words like "carnage" and "horror."

At News2Share, we put out a summary of all the verified information we had as of that evening. While I was also running live coverage for News2Share on Twitter alongside my own account, I wanted to take more an aggregating approach with our Facebook page - I've always envisioned Twitter as a minute-by-minute breaking news feed, and Facebook as a place to bring that all together and summarize.

The latest on #ParisAttacks:• Death toll: At least 150 per police and local media• 5 attackers dead• Attackers...

Posted by News2Share on Friday, November 13, 2015

We had a team head to the French embassy in Washington just after nightfall, which, as it turns out, was throwing a party just as the attack occurred.

Flowers are set outside France's embassy in DC after #ParisAttacks, as a fashion show goes on inside.

Posted by News2Share on Friday, November 13, 2015

The day after, we followed-up on Facebook with photos of candlelight vigils across the world and other content which had surfaced overnight. Sometimes, the most notable video or photo from an incident doesn't emerge immediately. Looking through French media that morning, I found a powerful, horrifying video on Le Monde:

#ParisAttacks: A French journalist filmed the chaos unfolding outside the Bataclan concert venue last night, moments...

Posted by News2Share on Saturday, November 14, 2015

That night, the world stood in solidarity with Paris: