“We are also awaiting anxiously because we know that as this trial takes place the pain, the events, everything will come back to the surface,” said Duperron, who is the president of a victims’ association and will testify at the trial.
Survivors of the attacks as well as those who mourn their dead were expected to pack the rooms, which were designed to hold 1800 plaintiffs and more than 300 lawyers.
Dominique Kielemoes, whose son bled to death at one of the cafes that night, said the month dedicated to victims’ testimonies at the trial would be crucial to both their own healing and that of the nation.
“The assassins, these terrorists, thought they were firing into the crowd, into a mass of people. But it wasn’t a mass — these were individuals who had a life, who loved, had hopes and expectations, and that we need to talk about at the trial. It’s important,” she said.
Twenty men are charged, but six of them will be tried in absentia. Abdeslam, who abandoned his rental car in northern Paris and discarded a malfunctioning suicide vest before fleeing home to Brussels, has refused to speak with investigators. But he holds the answers to many of the remaining questions about the attack and the people who planned it, both in Europe and abroad.
The modern courtroom was constructed within the storied 13th-century Palais de Justice in Paris, where the last queen of France Marie Antoinette and writer Emile Zola faced trial, among others.
For the first time, victims can also have a secure audio link to listen from home if they want with a 30-minute delay.
The trial is scheduled to last nine months. The month of September will be dedicated to laying out the police and forensic evidence. October will be given over to victims’ testimony. From November to December, officials including former French president François Hollande will testify, as will relatives of the attackers.
Abdeslam will be questioned multiple times. He has so far refused to talk to investigators.
The attacks transformed France, which declared a state of emergency that night and now has armed officers constantly patrolling public spaces. And it changed forever the lives of all those who suffered losses or bore witness to the violence that night.
“Our ability to be carefree is gone,” Kielemoes said. “The desire to go out, travel – all of that’s gone. Even if we still do a number of things, our appetite for life has disappeared.”
For Jean-Luc Wertenschlag, who lives above the cafe where her son died and who rushed downstairs soon after the first gunshots to try and save lives, it has even changed the way he moves around the city where he was born and raised. He never leaves home without the first aid gear he lacked that night, when he ripped off his shirt to stanch the bleeding of a victim.
“What we did that evening with other people, to provide assistance to the people wounded during the attack, was a way to stand against what these monsters had tried to do to us,” he said.
None of the proceedings will be televised or rebroadcast to the public, but they will be recorded for archival purposes. Video recording has been allowed for only a handful of cases in France considered to be of historical value, including last year’s trial for the 2015 attacks against the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris and a kosher supermarket.
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