On November 13, 2015, Bruno Poncet's life changed forever. He emerged safe and sound, but not unscathed, from the Bataclan terrorist attack in Paris. His wounds are not visible, but they are there. He recounts his long work of resilience and reconstruction in a moving and very fair book, Joy as revenge.
“It's okay, I'm alive.” This is the first text that Bruno Poncet sent to his partner on November 13, 2015, after the raid had finally exfiltrated him from the Bataclan after the terrorist attack.
Stuck upstairs throughout the take hostages, barely a few meters from the terrorists, Bruno Poncet remained hidden under a seat for an hour and a half, curled up on himself, praying not to die under the fire of the bullets.
He was not alone. He kept a young woman against him: Edith. He kept her out of sight of the attackers. Together, they came out of this crisis alive, becoming friends, linked forever.
When the media stopped reporting on the attack, the long work of reconstruction began for the survivors, who found alone with post-traumatic shocks, fears, anxieties.
Bruno Poncet spoke so that no one forgets the Bataclan tragedy, so that no one forgets the victims. How to continue his life? How to transform the worst into something beautiful, concrete? For him, hatred is useless.
In a telephone interview, Bruno Poncet talks about invisible wounds and the gap between lived of the victims and that of the people who have not gone through this ordeal.
“It's difficult because you live with something that gnaws at you inside, that prevents you from sleeping, that prevents you from taking transport, from going to the cinema, from living normally on the street. And people don't understand. After a few months, even a year or two, they tell you: it's good, move on. But no. It's always in you.”
“When you're in transport, you're afraid of people. When you are on the street, you look everywhere if everything is normal. It's really something quite constraining.”
Lack of sleep has become a major problem in his life.
“We live with that… but it's true, not sleeping or sleeping badly, there are times when the days are more complicated.”
Accepting being a victim
How important is it for a victim to be recognized in their trauma, to enable them to heal?
“Already, you have to accept yourself to be a victim. It took me almost a year. A few weeks before November 15, 2016, I felt the pressure rising, I was uncomfortable, I was not living well.”
“I told myself that I was not in good shape … and then I had the impression that I was going to relive the Bataclan, a year later. From the moment you accept yourself as a victim, you have already come a long way. The hardest thing is to accept yourself to be altered, to need to be treated.”
When he left the Bataclan, at no time did he is seen as a victim.
“I thought to myself that I was so lucky that I had no right to complain,” he notes.
But he realized that there is no not just the physically injured who need to be treated. The passage of time does not heal these wounds.
“It may have been a long time for others… but for us, it is still now.”
- Bruno Poncet is 49 years old.
- He is federal secretary of the Sud-Rail trade union.
- He saw his life changed on November 13, 2015 during the terrorist attack on the Bataclan in Paris.
- Anthony Verdot-Belaval was a reporter for Paris Match for seven years. Today he works in the world of culture.
“It was the first time that I felt this ambivalent, almost schizophrenic feeling, of wanting to be recognized at all costs as a victim of an attack while above all not wanting to be considered as such, at least not only as such. I know today that the whole paradox was to be able to be recognized as a victim in order to no longer be one or be defined as such. The official recognition of the public authorities, of society, of our victim status should allow us to free ourselves from it. It is once we are identified, named, that our suffering is recognized, that we can move the lines, not remain imprisoned. It is the unspeakable, the nameless, wordless, that is most devastating.”