It is an exceptional sound document, taken from emergency calls from the Samu in Paris, the night of November 13, 2015. Thirteen hours of tapes entrusted to us by the emergency doctor Nicolas Poirot, on call that evening, while the France will be hit by the deadliest jihadist attack in its history: 130 dead and 350 injured outside the Stade de France near Paris, on terraces in the capital and in the Bataclan auditorium. These recordings contain all the calls that passed through the Samu platform that night: witnesses, victims but also the exchanges of all the emergency services, firefighters, police, hospitals, teams on the spot which took action. that night to save as many people as possible.
“It has been for me, so far, the most significant event, professionally speaking”, confides Nicolas Poirot, who had to take command of the emergency unit of the Paris Samu at the AP-HP, from the first alert calls. He’s the one who gave us the recordings. He kept them in his computer. It took him over a year to listen to them and since then he has used them to train emergency physicians across France. “I wanted to keep track, for my history and also for History”. Archives to never forget. On the thirteen hours of tape, we operated a huge selection, but some passages are still difficult to hear. It is November 13, 2015. It is 9:26 pm at the call center. Regulator doctor Nicolas Poirot is preparing to experience the most difficult night of the Samu in Paris.
This Friday, it is mild in the capital, the atmosphere is festive, the terraces are crowded. At the headquarters of the Samu in Paris, at the Necker hospital, it is calm. “We have very few calls, and a lot of resources available”, remembers Nicolas Poirot. At 9:17 p.m., the first explosion heard at the Stade de France, in Saint-Denis, alerted professionals. In the process, the first calls for a shooting reached the Samu 75 call center.
9:26 pm: “Hello, I think there has just been a shooting at the bottom of my house, rue Bichat, at the corner of rue Alibert, at Carillon. Hurry, there are people injured!”A resident of the 10th arrondissement
emergency calls to Samu 75
At 9:33 p.m., a distraught witness described the scene he had just witnessed: “I saw a guy with a Kalashnikov get out of a car, and he shot people crazy at McDonald’s 10th.” For Nicolas Poirot, who is also a reservist and trainer at the Val-de-Grâce military hospital, there is no doubt, it is a coordinated attack. Especially since he was participating that morning in an exercise of multiple assault rifle attacks, with the same scenario. Very quickly, the doctor asked his teams for a dedicated table, a map to understand the movement of terrorists in Paris.
The calls multiply, impossible to answer them all. On the waiting music, we hear the victims getting impatient, swearing, calling for help, getting angry, screaming, suffering. These moments were recorded. You will not hear them, we have chosen to rule them out.
9:37 p.m., a shocked victim joins the Samu regulator: “There was an attack in Petit Cambodge, I have friends who are injured, but help is not coming!” Unable to send colleagues “to the pipe breaker”, remembers Nicolas Poirot, it is the basis of war medicine: first to secure the teams. But relations with the police are difficult, because Samu and the police are not used to working together. No direct call number, the police are overwhelmed.
At the end of the line, Professor Pierre Carli, the head of the Samu de Paris, advises to bring the teams of the attacked sites together while waiting for the terrorists to leave the premises. All staff are recalled, Samus from other departments are put on alert, Parisian and neighboring hospitals are warned one after the other. The capital already has dozens of dead and many UA (absolute emergencies). Like other hospitals, La Pitié-Salpetriere reminded all surgeons. The on-call administrator of the Assistance publique Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) lets out a “For God Sake”, while the chief of staff of Martin Hirsch, the boss of the AP-HP, triggers the White Plan, to provide the maximum of resources.
9.48pm: “We just took bullets next to the Bataclan, my husband and I. We are injured, I’m not well … There are at least four injured and we can still hear gunshots.”A victim near the Bataclan
emergency calls to Samu 75
For the Samu teams, the evening switches to another dimension. Nicolas Poirot leaves the call regulation of the crisis unit and leaves for the field with an ambulance driver and a nurse. Around the Bataclan, the situation is confused, a fire truck has received gusts, firing continues and the rescue team cannot approach the concert hall.
The national police warned Samu 75 that one of theirs was injured inside the Bataclan and called for vigilance: “People would still be inside and there would still be gunshots.”
11:04 pm: “He’s inside he’s still alive. He hears that everyone is being shot. He’s stashed in the toilet, we have to help him!”A woman with a loved one inside the Bataclan
emergency calls to Samu 75
Other victims have joined the porches of surrounding buildings, calls are increasing from the apartments where the wounded are taking refuge. Around here, an Englishman with a foot injury is taken care of by a doctor who lives there, on the 6th floor. Without news of her partner, a pregnant woman calls to find out if she can take anti-anxiety medications.
At 12:20 am the assault is given on the concert hall. The first reports reach the emergency center of the Samu, an emergency doctor on the spot evokes the figure of 80 dead at the Bataclan. Stupor at the end of the line. In the concert hall, the last living victims were evacuated. When he enters, Nicolas Poirot faces the unspeakable.
At 2:33 am, the emergency physician was called back to the control center to finish his night on call. The crisis room is closed, immersed in silence, there are no more calls. All the wounded were transported to hospitals, the deceased are taken care of by the police and the judicial identity. For the Paris Samu, the mission is over. It has just lived through the worst hours of its history since its creation in 1956.