In the midst of carnage, fear & panic, a brave Brit named Michael O’Connor (30) lay on top of his girlfriend to save her from the Paris Theater Massacre in which 80 people were killed.
A graphic explanation is given on his behalf:
“They ordered everyone to lie down before shooting indiscriminately at the helpless victims with automatic weapons, emptying their magazines before re-loading and firing all over again.”
What he said when he laid on top of her was “I love you”.
He reported to the BBC afterwards:
“There were two young people who came from the back of the arena.
“The started to open fire with what looked like AK 47s. There was one who I could see, I got a look at his face, but I did not see the other one.
“One of them looked young, but it was a blur really.
“I grabbed my girlfriend and pulled her down to protect her. We tried to make the exit, but there was a crush and you could not get out.
“They fired from an automatic weapon and people fell all over the place.
“They were running and pushing to get out – the place was full, it was a sell out.
“A few people dropped onto the ground around me and they were screaming and shouting, I did not hear the gunmen say anything or make any demands, they just fired indiscriminately into the crowds and once the place emptied a bit everyone got back up and tired to make a dash for the exits but then they re-loaded and started to fire again.
“It was unbelievable.”
Michael saw a way out near the side of the stage, but when he attempted to make a push for it, he wasn’t able to get past the people desperately climbing over him.
“There were people climbing all over me and I thought that if they fired again we would get hit so I pulled my girlfriend under me and lay on top of her.
“She had someone on her head and another person was on my legs, it was a real squash.
“There was a girl on my right side and two men on the other side and next to my girlfriend there was another girl, and behind me there were other people who were conscious but terribly injured but still stay quiet.
“Many people were wounded all around us, but there were also people who were obviously dead.
“I thought I was going to die, I could not see out properly but they were firing from the balcony above us so I guess I thought ‘they are going to shoot us’ so I told my girlfriend I loved her.
“What else can you do in that situation? I expected to die, and I waited.”
Michael’s girlfriend remained resilient through the entire tragedy by telling him “We will not die here”
He (the gunman) was looking at the exit but the gunfire sounded incredibly close. I could hear gunfire up in the balcony, I think they must have been killing people up there as well.
“I heard stories from people up there who said they were indiscriminately killing people up there as well.
“That was one of the eerier parts. You could hear someone methodically reloading his gun so he could start firing at us again.”
“We could tell the activity was on the balcony, we were whispering to each other in the group telling each other we were going to be OK, gently holding each other’s hands, trying to encourage each other, saying we were going to get through it.”
He added: “Eventually it seemed to subside, the gunfire seemed more controlled and didn’t seem to be as indiscriminate.
“I could see the entrance of the arena and there were just bodies strewn all over the place. I could see slightly up onto the balcony, but there was nothing above me at that point.
“We lay there for maybe an hour an and 15 minutes until the police stormed the building. One of the gunmen said in French in a French accent – I am assuming he was a French national – “if we are here it is because of your President Francois Hollande”.
“I’m assuming he was talking about Syria and what is going on over there.”
He went on: “I could see the door behind us, it slowly opened I didn’t know what was coming through. I saw torches and big flashlights. It was so eerie, you could hear the amp in the background.
“When I saw the torches it was then that I thought ‘we actually might survive this’. They came in and were behind big bullet proof shields, they were motioning for us to stay still.
“They formed a perimeter at the back of the hall and pointed their guns up to the balcony where the terrorists still were. Eventually the police told us to wave our arms if we still could and let them know who was alive.
“From what I could hear there was an exchange of gunfire (between police and terrorists). I could hear muffled shouting and then silence, it went very very quiet.
“It was such a relief. I have never felt so happy in my entire life. I was ecstatic to see the police. They could have still killed us even then. My main worry then was if they set off a bomb.
“It looked like an abattoir…the blood was a centimeter deep in places I was wading through blood and climbing over dead bodies to get out.
“It was just carnage everywhere. At one point the police told us to get out there was a woman on the floor, she reached out for me but the police pointed their gun at me and told me to get the hell out. I wanted to stop. I put my hands down I wanted to comfort her but we were just all in the way. I think the police wanted us out of there as quickly as possible.
“My girlfriend was with me I made sure we stayed together we ran out as quickly as we could. When I got outside it really hit me what I had seen and experienced, walking past the people who didn’t make it, it just brought it all home.”
But he also had a defiant message for the terrorists.
“What they want to do is to terrify us,” he said. “We can’t let them win and these people just, they’re just monsters, they’re just, they don’t represent anything, they’re not Muslims, they’re not, they’re just animals.
“How can you walk in there, I mean, I’m 30 years old, I was probably the oldest, one of the oldest people in the gig.
“It was full of teenagers and, you know, people in their early 20s going to see a band.”
Michael last night posted a message on his Facebook page to tell his friends that he and Sara were safe, and to thank all those who had sent their messages of support.
Now living in France, he added: “The people who attacked us were not Muslims, they were not even human beings.
“Don’t let this tragedy divide us, that’s exactly what these animals want.”