Editor's note: Jamie Arendt is a producer currently living in Paris deciding whether or not she wants to make it her permanent home. She has worked for MTV in the past. She told MTV News about her experiences in the French capital during Friday's terrorist attacks and Saturday's day-after lingering questions. Her statement has been lightly edited for clarity.
By Jamie Arendt
I came here to see friends. It’s Paris Photo, it’s Offprint, it’s Polycopies — it’s kind of a big art week, lots of friends. So I’m here, I have an apartment until December, and then hopefully until February, but I’ve only been here for five days, since Tuesday.
So yesterday, I was at Paris Photo for the second day, and it was a beautiful day. The sun was setting. It was gorgeous. I ran into a photographer friend, and then I came with my friend down to St. Germain and I met my other friend at a bar in Le Pollet in St. Germain, which is near all the galleries. And while we were having drinks, my phone started to go crazy. So did his. The first was from a journalist friend who’s in Paris, and it said, “Paris attacks have happened. Stay safe.” And my apartment that I’m staying at... is in the 11th Arrondissement, which is in the Bastille, which is where the first attacks happened. I haven’t been home since.
It was really weird because in St. Germain, it was very separate from where the attacks happened, so everything was pretty calm and people were still in the streets and didn’t really know what to do, and even people could get Ubers home. And then this morning, we went to the market — all the markets were open — the cinema was closed but people are out, having coffee, sitting on the street and honestly remaining in pretty good spirits. It feels like people don’t feel that scared.
But at the same time, I haven’t been near the Eiffel [Tower] or the Louvre or anything where they’re showing right now, like everything is empty. I’ve been told by a journalist friend to just stay safe, which — I don’t know what that means exactly right now.
I’m in St. Germain right now at a friend’s apartment. Luckily I have some friends in Paris, and again, this area has been probably the least affected at the moment, but it’s kind of weird because after Charlie [Hebdo], what they’re calling it is like debauchery. [Editor's note: ISIS has referred to France as the "capital of prostitution and obscenity."] They targeted all the debauchery areas like music, soccer, sport, drinking, so that’s kind of what the word is. But what’s really crazy is that there’s all these fairs that closed today -- they’re not open, like the Printed Press -- and there’s all these events that are supposed to be happening and all these artists that are in town. I don’t know how you’re supposed to know what’s happening next. I’m just still watching the news.
I think it’s refreshing that people are living their normal life. I like to think about it like New York, cause I don’t think we could all stay inside if one thing happened at a bar in the East Village because it’s a city that kind of lives off of walking and being places, and the Eurostar was still running today to London, the Metro is closed, so you can’t take it around the city, but there seems to be Ubers and taxis. We’re just thinking about taking flowers and going [to the attack sites], but it doesn’t make sense. It’s a mixture of feeling almost disrespectful to be out and about, and we went to the market to get food, and that was really it today. But it was refreshing that all the street markets were up and everybody was — no one was looking around paranoid. Everyone was taking their time shopping. It didn’t feel like fear, like manic, which was actually, I think, really nice.
And then I guess the big question is to stay in Paris or to not stay in Paris, and I’ll probably stay. I mean, I guess I’ll see what happens in the next two days... but the world kind of resumes... and everyone’s trying to keep going. And a lot of people knew people that were at the bar and at the game, and even some that died. And that part’s been heartbreaking. It’s really sad.
It was weird because everything took hours to unfold. So to be honest, it’s been my first experience being somewhere where this is happening and unfolding in real time. It’s almost like it’s suspended for you. One moment it’s 10 p.m. and everyone’s saying “Where are you? There’s been an attack,” and then you’re saying slowly, “No, there’s been three attacks,” and then “No, it’s five.”
The information was coming out the same time, but all of a sudden, it was 3 a.m., you know? We still didn’t really know — I think the biggest thing was that we understood it was all connected and that there were multiple things happening. What we did not understand was have the terrorists or attackers been secured? Have they been killed? We had no idea. that information just wasn’t coming out. And I feel like we still don’t really know everyone who was involved or who’s been captured. That seems to be still in flux.
[Editor's note: The conversation returned to Friday night's events a few times, and with each new one, more details and emotions emerged.]
In Paris, everyone had started to have drinks and hang out, it was dinner time, and again it had been a beautiful day, and it’s like, how did everything go from one minute leaving the photo fair and watching the sunset, this beautiful thing with all this artwork and books, and then for everything to just change drastically in, no joke, 15 minutes? From texting a friend, it went from jokes and whatever to “There’s been an attack on Paris. Stay where you are. Don’t move.” And then it was, from there, it was like locked inside and not moving.
And I was in a hotel trying to stay safe across the street from the cafe, and a guy who arrived back to the hotel had been at the Bataclan and he was telling us about it, and you kind of keep running into those people who are sort of there. It’s weird to see something like that because you could tell he was happy he made it but he didn’t know how to feel. He just needed to tell people what happened. He was by himself, just here to see the show.
I don't feel the tension — even seeing people last night, you still kind of trust everyone — but we did walk the streets last night, an 8-minute walk, and that was really weird and really scary because you did feel, in the dark, like, "What’s that car?” and you don’t want to feel that way. And you already do feel that way in New York sometimes like 3 or 4 in the morning, but then when something’s just happened, you don’t really know.
I’d like to go back outside again and go further outside than St. Germain, but I’m torn between "live" and "be respectful of the things that’ve happened in the last 24 hours," and don’t walk around just to walk around. It’s kind of like a moment of peace I guess.
If something like this happened in New York, I would hope it’d be the same way. That people wouldn’t stay inside and would continue to try and live as realistically as possible because I don’t think we can live in fear. And I think, at least from what I saw today, people are trying to not do that. People were smiling. We have to keep going. This could happen anywhere. It’s happening in Paris, but it’s happening in schools across the U.S., and just because you happen to be in the place in the moment. It’s really heartbreaking though.