Paris: The son of the first victim among 130 people killed in coordinated attacks in Paris a year ago on Sunday said his Portuguese-born father was the symbol of integration that is the key to healing the stigmatisation that drives some youth to violence.
President Francois Hollande unveiled a plaque "in memory of Manuel Dias," pulling away a French flag covering it on a wall at one of the entrances to the French national stadium, where he was killed on 13 November, 2015, by Islamist extremists.
Hollande is also unveiling plaques honouring the victims at the bars and restaurants in Paris and the Bataclan concert hall, which reopened on Saturday night with a concert by British pop star Sting.
Hollande remained silent at the sombre ceremony, and Dias' son Michael addressed the crowd of officials, saying his father was "living proof that integration is possible, necessary" to end the madness of violence carried out by those who felt excluded.
He said that learning to live again after extremists killed his father was "a personal challenge, but it concerns us all." He credited the life lessons of his father, who came to France at 18, and stressed the need to gain an education.
"It is by knowledge, by intelligence that the children of tomorrow can stop humiliating themselves as cannon fodder in the service of criminal, mafia-style interests ... as is the case today. [They are] incapable of reflection, thinking about the world and expressing the unease and social exclusion they feel."
On 13 November, 2015, three teams of attackers struck outside the Stade de France, five bars and restaurants in eastern Paris and the Bataclan concert hall. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In addition to those killed, nine people remain hospitalised from the attacks and others are paralysed. The government says more than 600 people are still receiving psychological treatment after the attacks.
The remembrances come after the Sting concert on Saturday night that reopened the refurbished Bataclan concert hall — where 90 people were killed by extremists with automatic weapons and explosive belts in several hours of horror.
Sting, in a T-shirt with a guitar slung over his shoulder, asked concert-goers in fluent French to observe a minute of silence as he opened the show.
"We've got two important things to do tonight," the singer said. "First, to remember and honor those who lost their lives in the attacks a year ago... and to celebrate the life and the music of this historic venue... We shall not forget them."
He then strummed out a string of hits, including 'Fragile' and 'Message in a Bottle'.
Elodie Suigo, who lost six friends in the attack, said that it was a hard night, even though she loved the music.
"It was difficult going through that door. I don't think I was the only one... We cannot say it was a magical moment because of everything that changed in our lives. But [Sting] is a really great man," she said.
Sting, 65, said proceeds from the concert would go to two charities helping more than 1,700 people officially recognised as victims of the unfolding horror a year ago.
With more than 400 rounds fired within 10 minutes at the restaurants, the coordinated attacks were a wake-up call for France and for Europe. They followed the January 2015 newsroom massacre at the satiric newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris and a Kosher grocery store that left 17 dead. But the complex planning behind the 13 November attacks and the high number of deaths revealed a degree of French vulnerability not previously suspected by authorities.
Neighboring Belgium, the starting point of the attacks in Paris, was hit a few months later on 22 March with attacks on its airport and a metro station that killed 32 people.
France declared a state of emergency after the 13 November attacks, which is still in force. Still, that failed to prevent the killing of a police couple in their home last June, the 14 July Bastille Day truck attack in Nice that killed 86 revellers and the slaying of a priest at the altar of his Normandy church in July.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned this weekend that "Yes, terrorism will strike us again." But, he contended, "we have all the resources to resist and all the strength to win."
Published Date: Nov 13, 2016 03:37 pm | Updated Date: Nov 13, 2016 03:37 pm