A man and his 12-year-old son were 2 of the 1,500 attendees at a concert at the Bataclan theater in Paris on Friday, where at least 89 people were killed in a terror attack that claimed the lives of at least 129 people across six locations throughout the city.
John Leader, an Australian living in Paris, said he and his son had been at the show by the American band Eagles of Death Metal for 15 minutes when they heard loud noises that they initially thought were part of the concert. “We heard this bang, bang, bang, and like everyone else we thought it was fireworks, or part of the show,” he told CNN. “Then I realized something was going toward the stage. At that point I think everyone understood. Everybody threw themselves on the ground.”
Oscar Leader had never seen a dead body before surviving the Bataclan attack on Friday. (Photo: ABC News Australia)
That’s when Leader saw two shooters, he says. “One was changing his magazine, so he had a whole lot of magazines in front of him and he had a big vest on. … I could see one of the guys was covering and doing crowd control, and the other guy was executing,” he said. “So there was no chance of anyone being a hero because these guys were organized. One was covering the crowd and the other was doing the shootings.”
Leader told ABC News Australia that he and Oscar hid behind the audio mixing desk, where they couldn’t be seen by the shooters. The 46-year-old dad said he pushed his son into the hiding spot. “Oscar moved back towards me. … I told him to put his head … down and said, ‘These guys are killers.’ When I looked at him he didn’t seem to know if this was real or if this was a joke. … I tried to rack my brains about how to get out of this,” he said.
John Leader, who was at the Bataclan concert hall with his 12-year-old son, says he and his son got separated after they escaped. (Photo: ABC News Australia)
Lying on the floor, the father and son were surrounded by dead bodies. “It was my first time [seeing a dead body] and I was just lying next to one,” Oscar told CNN. “I really was not in a comfortable position at that moment.”
Once the firing ended, John and Oscar ran out of the building but somehow got separated, which John told CNN was terrifying. “I was screaming out his name and thought he couldn’t be far away,” he said of his search for his son after their escape.
Eventually, John thought to call his son’s cellphone, and Oscar answered quickly, explaining that he had run down a set of stairs and up the street and didn’t hear his father calling his name, according to ABC News Australia. The two reunited at a nearby Métro station.
“It was obviously a very harrowing experience. After two days we’re starting to take the measure of what’s happened,” Leader told ABC News Australia. “For Oscar we’re focusing on this not being a life-defining event and being more of a mishap. We’ll see how it goes. The fear hasn’t hit yet. It’s not to say it won’t. I don’t think we’re in shock. We’re in the denial phase. For me at the moment it was a rough Friday night. It hasn’t sunk in how lucky we were.”
(Top photo: ABC News Australia)