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Paris survivor Emma Parkinson: 'A woman said they were going to kill us all.'

Emma Parkinson shares a terrifying story of survival on 60 Minutes.

When Australian teenager Emma Parkinson purchased last-minute tickets to a sold out gig on Friday the 13th November in Paris, she thought she’d lucked out. Little did she know, she’d just bought her way into one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in Europe’s history.

Tonight on 60 Minutes, Emma spoke to Ross Coulthart about how the attacks unfolded, her fight for survival, and the scars she’ll always carry from her experience in the Bataclan.

When gunshots began ringing around the Bataclan theatre at an Eagles of Death Metal concert, Emma Parkinson assumed – like many other concert-goers – that the noise was a firework let off by an over-enthusiastic fan.

“I thought for a second someone had fireworks. You know, like just little fireworks that you buy at the supermarket,” Emma told Coulthart.

“I remember thinking, ‘What an idiot. Who does that at a concert?’ But I remember thinking that something wasn’t right, and trying to drop down to the ground. And it didn’t take long for other people to do that, as well. And I looked back at one point and that’s just a really weird image. Almost a thousand people just on the floor, like that, in a concert hall.”

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As the shots continued, the realisation began to dawn on the people in the hall that something was seriously wrong.

“They would fire and then it would stop for, I don’t know, five seconds maybe, and we’d think it was over. And people would start putting their heads up, looking around and then it would start again and everyone would get back down.”

“And then at one moment one person yelled that we should run. And I don’t know if we would have if that person hadn’t said. And of course he was right, you can’t just wait there. So, I ran towards the barrier.”

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It was then that survival instinct took over.

“To be honest, someone could’ve died right next to me and I probably wouldn’t have realised, because it was just people rushing and trying to get out. And I was just thinking of trying to get out.”

The crowd, pushing and shoving, made its way towards the exit. Strangely, though, despite the growing number of dead, the hall is eerily quiet.

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“It was only the noise of those shots, and the woman behind me started crying. And she’s the only person that I remember crying at that point. And she said something about how they were they were going to kill us all,” Emma told 60 Minutes.

“I ran towards this barrier and tried to jump over it, but I got stuck sort of like bent over like that. Because there were people around, I couldn’t get my legs up, and that’s when I was shot.”

But although she was injured, Emma’s instinct for survival was still intact.

“It just sort of came through my head, ‘OK. I’ve been shot. Did it hit anything important? Probably not. Got to keep going.’ And so I kept going.”

It was the lucky shot that saved her life. With no injuries to organs or arteries, Emma was able to keep moving and exit through a stage door.

“There was no-one that didn’t have blood on them,” Emma said of her moment of escape from the Bataclan. “Everyone was covered. I’m just seeing people running as fast as they could.”

Knowing that the danger hadn’t yet passed, Emma ran into a nearby building for cover.

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“A bunch of other people, I don’t know how many, we run into this building. And we’re running up the stairs, and I was in the stairwell, and it just… hit me.”

Breaking down, Emma began swearing and crying.

“I just grabbed the first person I saw and hugged them. And think I was swearing a lot, in English, so he knew that I was not French. And this guy just grabbed me and was saying like, ‘It’s OK. It’s over. You’re going to be fine. You’re safe. I’m going to save you. We will be safe.'”

Emma and the others ended up lying in a corridor for two hours, waiting for the gunshots below to stop. Many had been shot during the escape from the Bataclan. They wanted to believe they were safe, but after what they’d just experienced, there was no way to be sure.

“I was terrified that they would come into the building. I remember asking whether I should lie down or not. And they were like, ‘Yes. That’s a good idea.’ So I did. And then the guy who had helped me get up the stairs a bit, he gave me his jacket to rest my head on. We waited in silence for a while. Everyone was just conscious of being quiet, so that no-one would come into the building where we were.”

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Finally, the police and ambulances arrived at the scene, and the group in the corridor could finally relax their guard.

“They carried me down the stairs and down an alley or the street next door, and then around a few corners. And they’d set up like a triage unit in a cafe, so I went there,” Emma said. “The fireman, by the way, has contacted me on Facebook to make sure that I was OK.”

When asked to give her thoughts on the perpetrators of the attacks, Emma was quiet for a moment.

“They were targeting young people who were having fun and laughing and being happy and doing what young people do. And I think that the only reason why you would want to target that specific demographic would be to incite hate, and to incite fear and to try and make people afraid. And to escalate problems that already exist in this country and I think in every other western country, to do with racism and…” She trailed off.

“Those people must’ve been sick. No healthy person, no sane person can walk into a room full of people having fun and start shooting at them.”

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Above all, Emma is determined that the traumatic experience won’t impact the way she lives her life.

“Personally, my reaction to things like this is not to close myself up, but to be more open. And just… I like getting to know people. I like talking to people. And I am lucky enough that I can continue to do that.”

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