Toulouse. 10 years since the Merah attacks: witnesses from the Jewish school recount the horror of March 19
By Anthony Assemat
“Mr. Monsonego is running around. I hear him scream with all his might. An unforgettable cry that still haunts me today. A cry that a father can only utter for one reason. ‘Hide, there is a shooter!’. I finally hit. Something is happening. Something wrong. A feeling of helplessness came over me and paralyzed me. I remain frozen because I do not know if the shooter is still in the school or if he has already left. I fear for my life”.
Raw embedded narratives
Dylan was 16 years old and was boarding at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, at 33, rue Jules Dalou, Roseraie district. Like a dozen other witnesses, he tells, ten years after the tragedy, his version of the facts, his fears, his panic, in the book “Toulouse March 19, 2012: the attack on the Ozar Hatorah school by those who ‘lived’ (Albin Michel editions).
Jonathan Chetrit was 17 years old. He was a student in the final year and lived in the front row this day of Monday, March 19, 2012 in hell. They are named Dylan, Hannah, Patricia, Dovan, Aaron, Noémie, Yona, Sarah-Lucie, Elodie, Judith, Tsiporah, Gabriel, Déborah, they were students, teachers, friends or relatives… Through raw enshrined stories, devoid of any ounce of romance, engraved in the memory like an endless day, Jonathan Chetrit brings to the fore these people “too often forgotten in his words. Witnesses, victims, victims. A never. Samuel Sandler, the father of Jonathan, a professor killed by the bullets of the terrorist Mohammed Merah, also testifies.
“I wanted to give them back their place”
“I wanted to let as many people as possible know about this experience. Many students have never had the opportunity or did not want to talk about it. I wanted to give them back their place, to highlight them. We were young , we didn’t understand everything that day. It’s also a way of saying, ‘This is what we faced'”.
A book for history. Jonathan took more than two and a half years to create testimonies, to find these witnesses of the supreme horror. “I have had rejections. It’s still too painful to talk about it for many, “he confides to news.fr.
Feeling of guilt
Jonathan also opens up. On the first detonations, which he takes for firecrackers in bad taste on such an early Monday morning. But the shots multiply… “I absolutely don’t understand what is happening. The CPE rushes to the synagogue. I see her storming in, yelling, ‘There’s a shooter in the school!’ “says the young man, who announces the news to the director. “I send him straight to his daughter, his princess Myriam,” he explains. Years later, the feeling of guilt is still present. “Even hot, we think we could have done better,” says the author of the book.
The fear of the slightest scooter noise
He had to endure the crowds of journalists, the frenzy, the continuous TV reports – a less significant phenomenon than today – the scorned intimacy and the hampered process of mourning. To the “tremendous pain” of having lost loved ones, are added the post-traumatic shock and the consequences in daily life, which Jonathan still suffers ten years later.
“The first year of reconstruction was painful, with this feeling that March 19 had always happened the day before. I am wary of crowds, public transport, the noise of the slightest scooter in the street. still this anguish, this fear… Time has done things, like any traumatic event, but I think every day of March 19. There is always a detail that brings me back to it: a scooter, a little blonde girl like Myriam … I tend to have nightmares, in which I decline the attack in different places”.
On the victims: “They are part of the family”
Jonathan knew the victims of the attack on the Ozar Hatorah school well. ” Arie and Gabriel (the grandchildren of Samuel Sandler, editor’s note), I often saw them because Jonathan (Arié and Gabriel’s father) occupied an apartment in the boarding school opposite my room. We had a physical and sentimental closeness. I often babysat Arié, Gabriel and Liora, the little sister. They were like nephews or nieces to me. On love them strong. They are part of the family,” he says, moved.
The Monsonego couple, “a model of resilience”
His thoughts for Myriam Monsonego, “young girl full of life”, are intact, like her memories. “She often played in the school, she rode a bike, a scooter… She was always there”. Jonathan returns from time to time to Toulouse, a trip with an obligatory stage by the rue Dalou.
“The school is a big family, there is a strong bond between students and teachers. Coming back is a need more than a desire. And I see Mr. Monsonego and his wife each time, who are two models of strength and bravery. They got up with incredible dignity. School life quickly resumed after the attacks. He is a model of resilience for all of us”.
” Allahu Akbar ! : Beïla’s face-to-face with the scooter killer
Among the poignant testimonies of the book of the former pupil of the school which now bears the name of Ohr Torah, there is that of Beïla K., 12 years old at the time and who was educated in 6th grade. She recounts the face-to-face with Mohammed Merah after the killing and before he fled.
“I notice, a few meters from me, a man dressed in black holding a pistol in his hand. I see him shooting everywhere, without any real logic, and without what he is trying to achieve. However, a person falls and someone a ‘one already on the ground struggles.
Panicking and not knowing how to react, I rush towards the killer. He sees me and turns to me. At the same time, a small child rushes inside the school. The man immediately sets off in pursuit, preferring to catch up with the fugitive. The killer has disappeared from my field of vision but I hear new detonations. The schoolgirl who had accepted that I walk by her side understands what is happening. She pulls me by the hair to avoid a tragedy and hides me with her behind a car then behind a low wall. The explosions follow one another without respite.
So as not to remain uncovered, we throw ourselves between two cars parked along the sidewalk. But we are no longer safe. We then open the gate of a house which is at our level. We desperately seek help but, we take for malicious people, the owner hunts us on the spot. We find ourselves again behind the low wall.
Without being able to help myself, I put myself dangerously exposed to see what is happening. Bodies are bathed in a pool of blood in front of the school gate. Suddenly, the killer emerges, still continuing to shoot. He looks at me, then looks down at his weapons that no longer seem to be working properly. He then bursts out laughing and shouts: “Allahu Akbar!”.
He then returns to his scooter, on which he came. He runs away at full speed and I hear him laugh when he passes us […]
I discover other deceased children, including one not far from the gate. Students carry a little girl. I recognize her. It’s Myriam Monsonego, the director’s daughter. In the synagogue, another child is lying on the floor”.
The stages of reconstruction
The various trials of the terrorist’s accomplices have been constituted “an important step” in its reconstruction. “I needed to have answers on the motivations of the terrorists and his journey. I wanted to understand”.
Today, Jonathan Chetrit is a lawyer in Paris and has launched, in parallel, a brand of baby clothes. He intends to “take advantage of every moment”, the “will to live” anchored to the body and as the basis of all personal development. “When you survive an act like this, you take the measure of life, family moments, a game of cards with your niece…”, he explains. He is asked his view on the Muslim community after such a shock.
“I have always made it a point of honor not to mix things up. However, I have known painful moments. For example, one day, I have a Muslim student who made anti-Semitic remarks in front of me. I have met many Muslim people, some have become friends. They denounce these acts, say that Mohammed Merah could not be a Muslim. But I am not in this state of mind of dialogue at all costs”.
Mohammed Merah, the name is dropped. “Usually, I avoid pronouncing it… It’s not denial, but too much honor to do him,” explains the young man.
Commemorations to manage
The commemorations of the ten years of the attacks will be a media shock wave. Saturday March 19, 2022, the Head of State Emmanuel Macronformer presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollandebut also the president of Israel Isaac Herzog will be present in the Pink City. I’m apprehensive”, admits the former intern of Ozar Hatorah. Each March 19 is not easy to manage. There, it will not be the intimacy that we know. Am I going to crack? he asks himself.
“Other forms of violence” after the attacks
Years later, Jonathan Chetrit admits to having felt “other forms of violence” after this cursed March 19, 2012. on the recognition of the attacks of 2012. Political and media music often starts the series of attacks in France with Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. Not in Toulouse three years earlier. In question: “the refrain of the lone wolf formed by no one” too long relayed as the main thesis according to him, “while there is a whole system behind, a process of conversion, ideas transmitted, an indoctrination”.
Jonathan also applied to be recognized Nation wardaided in this by the Fenvac, the National Federation of Victims of Attacks and Collective Accidents. “I took the steps when I was 22, you had to be 21 years old maximum… This process was put in place after the attacks in Paris, but not for us,” he regrets.
“Toulouse March 19, 2012: the attack on the Ozar Hatorah school by those who lived through it”, Albin Michel editions. Price: €19.90.
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