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Heartbreak from home: Two French-born Islanders reflect on the Paris attacks

REPORTER ILLUSTRATION

REPORTER ILLUSTRATION

Michel Kramer Metraux, who has a home on Chase Creek, was watching TV last Friday when the program was interrupted by horrific and heartbreaking news from the country of his birth.

A native of Lyon, he switched to an all-news channel while simultaneously phoning his brother.

“He’s there in Paris, with my nieces and nephews and many friends,” said Mr. Metraux, a textile designer.

They were all safe and, like most people who had heard the reports or received phone calls, Mr. Metraux’s family in Paris was searching for more information.

“My brother said he’d call me back,” Mr. Metraux said. “My nephew, a young lawyer in Paris, was planning on going out to the area” where many of the victims were murdered.

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, he absorbed the appalling news coming in about the worst siege of violence in Paris since World War II.

“It’s ironic — I’ve been reading a book about the French Resistance and the German occupation during the war,” Mr. Metraux said, and couldn’t shake the coincidence of a Paris oppressed 70 years ago and now again in 2015.

There is great sadness, but also “a feeling of frustration,” he said. “You don’t know how to prevent this kind of thing.”

Marie Eiffel, a Parisienne before coming to America, was in her market on Bridge Street when she heard the news. At first the reports were “difficult to grasp,” Ms. Eiffel said.

She got in touch with a friend in France, a journalist with the Paris Match newspaper, but the reporter had only pieces of information at the time.

“You don’t want to believe it,” she said, “but then you try to be optimistic. You have to come to reality.”

Since the attacks, she and her pastry chef, Anabel Cohen, also originally from Paris, have been getting a steady stream of emails from French friends and loved ones informing the expatriates that they are safe.

The terror came a bit closer to Ms. Eiffel when she received an email from a friend who has a restaurant next to the Bataclan concert hall where 89 people were murdered Friday night. He also let her know that he was all right.

This past weekend a number of regular customers have come into the market, some with tears in their eyes, to express condolences, Ms. Eiffel said, adding that their concern has great meaning for her.

She compared the aftermath of the Paris attacks to the feeling many foreigners had for the United States after 9/11.

Mr. Metraux agreed. Americans’ response to the French people “is exactly what the French did after 9/11,” he said. “Everybody felt they were a little bit American then. And now Americans are returning the compliment.”

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