Islamic State ripples Papamoa

Laurent and his son Bastien – sad, but safe. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

He lives peacefully in Papamoa with wife and child. But officially he is now at war with Islamic State.

“That’s the scary bit,” says French man Laurent De Bourgues. “My country, my people are at war again. And it feels really horrible.”

War is the word used by President Francois Hollande, after the worst atrocity in France since WWII.

Papamoa’s Laurent is Gallic, charming and suave but simmering with contempt and hatred towards those involved in the blood-letting in his beloved Paris.

Life at the seaside in Papamoa was shattered Saturday morning. “It was 9.45am and I was on WhatsApp with my sisters and friends,” the Bureta restaurant manager recalls.

“They said there have been bombs at Stade de France and Kalashnikovs on the streets.” They all turned to their TVs.

“I was shocked. Shocked and sad.” But there was also defiance. “The terrorists will never get to march on Paris, they will never fly their flag on the Champs-Élysées.”

However there had been an expectation. On the back of French airstrikes in Syria and in the back of French minds, they knew something was about to happen. “The threat was definitely there. The politicians had been talking about it for months.”

The security threat had reached level six, which is the highest. And on Friday night as Paris ate, drank and danced, it ignited.

Nearly 90 young people attending a rock concert at the Bataclan music hall were systematically slaughtered by four gunmen.

Laurent, 18,000km from the bloodshed and cuddling his wee boy, shakes his head with disbelief. “The Bataclan was iconic. I saw so many gigs there. My wife Dominique and I were there for Fat Freddy’s Drop. That was cool.”

The 10th and 11th arrondissement, the two municipalities targeted by the terrorists, were Laurent’s Paris patch, where he lived and played for seven years, went to high school and university, and later to the bars, the restaurants and the Bataclan.

Fond memories, but not today’s reality. Because it’s also where 40 more innocents were killed and another 300-plus wounded in five separate attacks. Then, an hour-long shootout and the death of two terrorists.

“Every day now my family and friends live with fear. I feel sad for my nieces and nephews. It’s the new way, living with fear. And they see someone with dark skin and a beard and they are suspicious. It is horrible.”

But Laurent is sure Paris won’t be unnerved forever.

“We will not have lost our ability to enjoy life. We cannot give into them.” Even though, he says, this is an ideological war and could go on for many years.

“But I heard someone from France saying, ‘Don’t finish the job for the terrorists.’ He was saying they could destroy France from within with fear, civil war and hatred. The message was don’t let Islamic State do that.”

This from a man who left France in 2004. “I am still quiet French, I have a strong accent, and I love my country.”

But he also fell in love with New Zealand and a Kiwi woman.

“And I am very fortunate to be here with Dominique and Bastien. Far away from all that.”