After being shot in the lung that almost left him paraplegic and another in the leg that “slashed” his tibia, at the restaurant Le Petit Cambodge, in Paris, one of the targets of the wave of attacks in the French capital on November 13 2015, Brazilian architect Gabriel Sepe Camargo thought he was going to die.
Lying on the asphalt, he says he thought about his grandmother and mother and then remembered a line from the book “Life” by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards about the body continuing to function no matter what your mind thinks.. He says that was when he told himself he would survive and he was reassured.
Almost six years after the tragedy that killed 130 people and left hundreds injured (in the attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, bars and restaurants in the French capital and the Stade France), Sepe is one of about 1,800 interested parties (among victims and relatives) in the trial.
With 20 accused of the attacks, the trial that began on Wednesday (8) is considered “historic” in France and should last about nine months (see the video below).
France strengthens security for the trial of those accused of the 2015 Paris attacks
The inclusion of Sepe in the process was done automatically by a fund to help victims of terrorist attacks in France.
In the first press interview since the attacks, the architect told BBC News Brasil that he does not expect individual compensation in this trial.. He assesses that the legal process is important for people who have lost family and friends to obtain a termination of this entire period.
For him, what is at stake in the trial is the “ultimate act” that leads a person involved in internet extremism to take up arms and shoot. Investigations revealed that perpetrators of the attacks regularly watched Islamic State videos and joined the organization, including traveling to Syria.
Among the 20 accused, there is the only survivor of the groups that attacked several places in Paris and the Stade de France: the French-Belgian Salah Abdeslam, who abandoned his belt of explosives on the outskirts of the capital and managed to flee to Brussels, where he was detained in 2016 and handed over to French authorities.
The others are accused of complicity. They participated in logistics (hiding, transport, weapons, bomb making) or in financing the attacks. Six of them will be tried in absentia, with five being presumed dead. The sentences range from six years of imprisonment to life imprisonment, as in the case of Abdeslam and ten other defendants.
There is no expectation that Abdeslam, who will turn 32 next week, will respond during the trial. In recent years, he has remained silent about his involvement in the bombings. Arrested in 2016, he is watched by cameras 24 hours a day to prevent a possible suicide.
“Talking would be a concession to the society he wants to destroy,” says Sepe.
The fact that he considered that he was the victim of random violence, in which he was not a premeditated target, guarantees the 35-year-old São Paulo architect more tranquility in relation to the drama.
At the time of the attack, at age 29, he had made few international trips and was just passing through Paris. His destination was Valencia, Spain, where he would present an architecture project at the Le Corbusier Foundation.
Sepe was at a table at Le Petit Cambodge — in Paris’ 10th arrondissement, a popular, immigrant area full of bars and restaurants — with seven other people (six Brazilians and one Frenchman).
He says that what else What impressed him was discovering the size of his injuries after the leg surgeries and for the removal of one of the lobes of the right lung.
“That’s when I understood what happened and I got emotional. The nurse lifted me up to take care of the wound in my back and I saw a diagonal cut on my spine. It was close that I wasn’t paralyzed.”
Flowers and banknotes in front of Café Carillon, on the corner of Bichat and Alibert streets, where people were killed during the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris — Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP
The architect believes that, in the midst of the tragedy, he had successive “lucks”: The shot right lung has three lobes, while the left has only two, and the bullet missed the spine for a short distance.
Severely injured, he was almost left out in the triage carried out by the rescue teams at the scene, who were giving priority to taking to the hospital the people who were most likely to survive. “A doctor said they had to take me because it was still possible [para salvar]”, says Sepe, based on reports he heard from friends present.
The architect says that he immediately understood that it was a terrorist attack and not an act of urban violence, like a robbery. “The degree of violence, the sound of the machine guns, was not normal”, he says.
He heard the gunshots, took off running, and went down, shot, conscious. He had the impression of staying there for 15 minutes, but according to people present there were more than 40. He remembers his arrival at the hospital and even the tiles on the walls.
(O G1 he spoke with Gabriel’s father the day after the attack, before Abel Camargo left for Paris to see his son in the hospital. remember here.)
The bar A la Bonne Biere, one of the targets of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, during its reopening after 1 month — Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP
Sepe was hospitalized for 40 days in France, being about two weeks in a pulmonology service. Then he was transferred to an old people’s home. “It was a curious experience. I felt like I was in the movie A Stranger in the Nest.”
His progressive recovery process took a year, which ended up causing a temporary interruption of their professional and academic activities. At the time, he had just opened his own architectural firm and says he made a point of continuing to live alone, being monitored by his family. “I was independent and suddenly regressed.”
Sepe says he has no sequels and that he leads a normal life. He says he has no difficulty walking or breathing, but he points out that he sometimes feels tired.
The architect says he has not yet seen the scale of the violence of the attack that killed 12 people at the Asian restaurant, located in the Canal Saint-Martin area, a few meters from a hospital.
Even though he knew he had been shot and was conscious, his awareness, attenuated over time, was focused on himself and not on what was going on around him. “I didn’t see what happened after the shooting. Those who weren’t injured saw worse scenes, people bleeding, couples killed,” he says..
This is the case of Brazilian Amanda Antunes, who was also at Le Petit Cambodge — the only one of the group who resides in Paris. On her recent arrival in the French capital, she says that for a time she lived in fear of discovering things in the city. She also claims to have had nightmares for months.
“It felt like I was in a fiction movie. Nothing made sense. It couldn’t be real. These are scenes that we never imagined,” he says, adding that later the fearful situations passed, despite some shocks when he heard different noises.
Amanda, who sets up exhibitions, is also one of the interested parties in the trial of the attacks, which begins this Wednesday. According to her, this participation makes sense due to the collective dimension of the process. “Nothing can replace having lived through this. But it’s a way of giving victims a voice, of allowing them to be heard.”
She says she is experiencing the beginning of the trial from a distance. But, as she lives in France, she hears daily news about it, which brings back some scenes and provokes emotions, which she says she manages to “filter out”.
Unlike Sepe, Amanda claims not to have understood at the time that it was a terrorist attack. “I thought it was a settling of scores between criminals.”
That didn’t stop her from reacting quickly to the shots. “I knocked over the table, threw myself on the floor and crawled into the restaurant. I protected my head with my hands as soon as the shooting started. I heard people wondering what was going on, but I was already lying down,” he recalls. His greatest fear at the time was that the three shooters would enter the restaurant, which they did not.
Several numbers make this trial one of the largest ever held in France. In addition to the 1,800 interested parties (victims or relatives of dead people) and its more than 300 lawyers — whose fees are paid by the French State in terrorism cases — the dossier with investigation reports, testimonies and expertise has 542 volumes, totaling about 1 million pages.
The trial is considered “historic” also because of the organization of the hearings. A room inside the Court of Justice was built especially for the occasion, with a capacity of 550 seats. It cost 8 million euros.
An internet radio channel, with a security system, was created to allow victims who cannot attend to watch the debates from a distance. The measure cost 250 thousand euros.
The nine-month duration of the trial, which will be filmed in its entirety, is also considered exceptional.
It will take place under tight security. The accused will be escorted in armored vans with the support of a helicopter. They will not be judged by a popular jury, but by judges.