Sunday marked the one-year anniversary since terrorists coordinated a series of attacks in Paris, killing 130 people and injuring more than 300 others.
The majority of the casualties came from the Bataclan theatre, where American band Eagles of Death Metal were playing for an audience of about 1,500 people. After gunmen took members of the crowd hostage and opened fire, one family who lives directly behind the theater turned their apartment into a makeshift “hospital” for the wounded.
What started out as a peaceful Friday night for the Syed family quickly turned into carnage and chaos.
“Our house became like a hospital, our courtyard like an operating theater,” Natalia Syed told The Independent. “There were injured people everywhere.”
The Muslim family whose house became a hospital for Bataclan victims – and whose sofa is still stained with blood https://t.co/9k50PEEVi7
— The Independent (@Independent) November 13, 2016
Natalia and her husband, Gabriel, were watching soccer on television with their three children, ages 8, 12 and 18, when the attacks rang out. Soon after, their modest first-floor flat became a place of refuge for those who managed to flee the theater.
The family first heard gunshots around 9:40 p.m., but mistook the sounds as fireworks due to the typically “lively” activities in the neighborhood. Gabriel then received a text message from a friend saying there had been an attack at a restaurant and pub nearby, where he later discovered 15 people had died.
After receiving the text, Gabriel went outside to have a smoke and saw several people running away from the Bataclan.
“I heard the bangs louder now,” Gabriel said. “Then, I saw police…running the other way. They were shouting, ‘Go home. Close the doors.’”
Gabriel immediately went back inside and turned on the news, and families watched in shock as presenters described the attacks happening just yards away from them. Within moments, they heard screams coming from outside their gate.
Dozens of victims flooded into the courtyard, many dripping with blood.
The Muslim family brought the lightly injured and those in shock into their home to make space in the courtyard to operate on the critically injured. It took ambulances a while to arrive, so it was up to the civilian police and neighbors to try and treat about 60 people.
Two neighbors were trained doctors and began operating on the seriously injured. Other neighbors came outside with pillows, blankets and bandages to try and stop the bleeding.
The Syed family couch is still stained in blood from where a seriously injured police officer lied, Natalia said. The officer had lost his finger and kept asking whether his fellow officers were okay, said the Syed’s 18-year-old daughter, Letitia.
“I’ve tried every cleaning product, but they won’t come out,” Natalia said of the stains.
As the Syed family and their neighbors tried to save the victims, they continued to hear shooting for almost an hour. More people began to stream into the courtyard, including the injured and those in a desperate search for missing friends and family.
Multiple people died in the Syed’s home that night.
“We saw horrible things,” Natalia said. “It didn’t shock me at the time. It was like a reflect.”
It wasn’t until police left around 5 a.m. and she was mopping up the blood that Natalia realized the gravity of what had happened.
“The images started coming back to me, and the reality of what had just happened sunk in,” she said. “That’s when I felt scared.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo awarded medals to Natalia and Gabriel, along with six other caretakers, for their service that night. Natalia said the community has come together as a result of the horrors on Nov. 13, 2015.
“It’s incredible how much the community has come together,” she said. “Before everyone in this building and the surrounding area seemed too busy to speak to each other. But now, after going through that and seeing so much pain and bloodshed together, everyone is much closer.”