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Paris attacks: Picking up the pieces one month later

It's been one month since the Paris attacks.
It's been one month since the Paris attacks. Carmen Chai/Global News

PARIS — Fresh flowers, wreaths and posters still line Place de la Republique, the restaurants on Rue Bichat and the Bataclan.

The City of Light is coated in December rain but Parisians return daily to light candles in memory of those they lost one month ago.

On Nov. 13, three teams of ISIS attackers targeted a national stadium, a rock concert and four nightspots with gunfire and suicide bombs. At least 129 people were killed and another 350 wounded.

In the fallout, France grappled with false alarms, heightened security, sealed borders amid reports of midnight raids across the country and neighbouring Belgium.

But make no mistake: The French have not been brought to their knees, they are not bitter, they are not retaliating.

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In radio interviews, I’m asked repeatedly: Are they angry? Are they blaming anyone?

READ MORE: Celebrating life and brotherhood following Paris attacks

No. Place de la Republique is just steps away from my home. I’ve read nothing but messages of hope, strength, that brothers shouldn’t fight and that war shouldn’t be fought with war.

In every interview I’ve conducted, locals shed tears for the families who are hurting — consolation and condolence seem to be the priority.

WATCH: Parisian father soothes frightened son at attack site memorial

Daily life resumed. We go to work, we go to school, the metro is still packed at peak hours, and locals sip on coffee and break bread on café terraces.

But I’m cognizant of the changes, too.

The Christmas markets that line Avenue des Champs Elysees aren’t bustling like they were last year.

On the first Sunday of every month, entry to museums around the city is free and they’re unfailingly overrun. Last weekend I got into the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay within 15 minutes. The mobs had evaporated.

I tell myself it’s just tourism’s off-season but frankly I think people are avoiding popular public spaces when they can.

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WATCH: People around the world shared one man’s love letter to his wife who he lost in the Paris attacks. Kelly Cobeilla reports.

READ MORE: ‘Today is a sad day’: French residents share response to Paris attacks

And public spaces themselves have become a little less carefree.

On entering a movie theatre, department store or grocery store, we unbutton our coats, open purses and shopping bags to show security guards we aren’t hiding an explosive device or weapon.

Every man, woman and child is checked with a magnetometer wand.

I sit by café windows and watch a dozen armed soldiers walk by.  On the metro and on the street there are droves, long guns slung across their chests. We’ve ushered in a new reality.

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It’s become so routine I’d forgotten how unsettling this is until my sister came to visit last week.

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As we entered the Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps department stores she didn’t understand why we had to line up to shed our coats and show officers our belongings.

What became second nature to me troubled her.

READ MORE: Eyewitnesses give terrifying account of the Paris shootings

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Paris has become a city of walking wounded.

The woman who lost her friends who were eating dinner inside Le Petit Cambodge; a 22-year-old man who couldn’t believe what he was seeing from his balcony as he watched a lone gunman open fire on the streets; a man who waited with bated breath to hear from his friends who were inside the Bataclan.

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My friends and I were meeting for dinner at Le Petit Cambodge that night.

They were across the street, waiting for their table, when the street erupted in gunfire.

READ MORE: Global News reporter’s account of Paris attacks

My friend Suzan Yucel, who is also a journalist, took a week off from work. After retelling her story to news outlets around the world and returning to the scene to snap photos, the gravity sunk in.

Parisian Agathe Moreaux went back to university. Both visited grief counsellors.

“I’m still stressed about taking the metro and my heart stops when I hear fireworks, a door slam or someone screaming in the street. Life is not coming back to normal yet, but it’s almost there,” Moreaux told me.

“There are a lot of people that are scared. Some streets and shops are empty whereas they are normally full at this period. I think that’s Paris still mourning.”

It wasn’t easy but she steeled herself to return to Le Carillon to leave flowers for those who were near her that night.

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carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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