PARIS – In silence and tears, families of the victims of France’s deadliest terror attacks stood alongside President Emmanuel Macron Monday to honour the 130 people killed two years ago when Islamic State extremists attacked the City of Light.
A crowd joined them on the memorial sites to lay roses and light candles in memory of the victims.
Security was tight for the memorial events — part of the new normal in France since Nov. 13, 2015.
Outside the Stade de France national stadium, Macron and the mayor of the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis placed a wreath of red, white and blue flowers to honour the Portuguese immigrant killed by a suicide bomber, the first victim of the night’s violence.
The commemorations continued at Paris cafes, where city officials read out the names of the 29 people gunned down while dining, drinking and enjoying the balmy night.
Dozens of families and Parisians gathered outside the Bataclan concert hall, where the attacks took their most chilling turn as extremists opened fire on a dancing crowd and held hundreds hostage in an hourslong standoff with police. Ninety people were killed.
Many rescuers and people injured in the attacks, some with crutches, others in wheelchairs, also attended the ceremony.
After the commemoration, Parisians and tourists took their turn to pause near the memorial plaque with the names of victims. Many were crying.
Residents recalled the blasts of explosive belts and assault rifles, and described the wariness that has lingered since. Hundreds were wounded; some survivors are disabled for life, and many have deep psychological scars.
While multicolored balloons took to sunny skies above Paris in honour of the victims, Macron embraced parents and siblings of victims, patting others on the back and listening to them talk about lost loved ones.
Members of California rock band Eagles of Death Metal, which had been playing at the Bataclan on the night of the attack, gave a surprise performance on a Paris plaza.
Visibly moved, singer Jesse Hughes said: “I’m so happy and pleased to see all of you. The only reason we’re still standing is because you all still love rock and roll.”
After singing, he handed out white roses to the crowd.
Leading politicians from rival political parties took part in the sombre commemorations, including Francois Hollande, who was president during the attacks.
Parisian Elisabeth Bornand, 56, white roses in her hand, said “I came to show my support to the injured people, the victims’ families. Show them we don’t forget.”
Marie Courtois, 29, a waitress in a cafe, said she has “a sense of solidarity” with the victims’ families.
“What has changed since Nov. 13, 2015, is that we are now aware that we are not safe, an attack can happen anywhere,” she said. “And still, we must continue to live our lives.”
On Nov. 13, 2015, France “entered a new era of terrorism,” national police chief Eric Morvan said Monday on BFM television.
The attacks ushered in nearly two years of state of emergency, replaced just two weeks ago with a tough law allowing police wider latitude against anyone suspected of links to radicalism. The state of emergency didn’t prevent subsequent extremist violence, including a truck attack on holiday revelers on the Mediterranean shore of Nice.
While Islamic State extremists have been ousted from their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa where the Paris attacks were planned, French authorities remain on guard, and the French military remains active in the U.S.-led military coalition against IS.
“The threat level obviously remains high,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on France-Inter radio Monday.
All but one of the November 2015 attackers were killed. France’s counterterrorism prosecutor says authorities are still looking for suspects involved, and that “zones of mystery” remain about the attacks.