From London to Nice, Berlin to Oslo, 11 people caught up in attacks across Europe reflect on the horror, the hope and the kindness of strangers. Portraits by Mathias Braschler and Monika Fischer

Hager Ben Aouissi

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, 14 July 2016

86 people killed, 450 wounded

We had to roll underneath the truck. We were the only people to stand up again: Hager Ben Aouissi with her daughter Kenza

I was there with my family. We were going home after the Bastille Day fireworks, but Kenza, who was four at the time, wanted something from the sweet stall, so we stopped with my father. He went on towards a toy stall and my mother and sister kept walking. While we were weighing the sweets, I saw a truck drive on to the pavement, and I thought it was going to stop; maybe it was supplying the hotels. Then it hit two young girls at the other end of the stall. And I told myself: Actually, its ploughing into us. We couldnt run it was going too fast. I couldnt go to the right there was the sweet stall. Behind me, there were people queueing. I checked the truck was high enough, and I told myself that I had to roll underneath it with my daughter. It was my only chance to save her.

I didnt have time to lie down, so it hit me on the left-hand side. My ear was cut, a bit of my arm, my shoulder was dislocated. When we stood up, I knew it was a terrorist attack: police were shooting at the truck. We were the only ones in the area to stand up again. No one is prepared to see what my daughter saw that evening. I was bleeding heavily from my ear, and Kenza saw this. Even today, her biggest fear is losing Mum. She had no major physical injuries; her back and thighs hurt for a few months.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, where a truck mounted the pavement after Bastille Day fireworks

After we were evacuated, and I had found my father, we went home I didnt want to go to hospital. I made dinner. Thats when Kenza started to throw up and wet herself. It was 3am. My ear was bleeding and it wasnt stopping; I needed stitches, and a splint, because my shoulder was dislocated. Kenzas father, who had come home with us, took us to hospital.

For two years, I didnt really look after myself. I was physically there, but it was like I was dead. I was in total denial; my only concern was my daughter. But in January 2018, I started to get psychological care. Kenza also had therapy. She still cant sleep alone she has nightmares every night, often followed by panic attacks. The first year, it was very difficult to go to school: our route took us through a square where trucks supply a market and she would be anxious, shouting, screaming. Eventually, I managed to get a flat opposite her school. She had this constant feeling of insecurity, and had to go back into nappies. After the attack, she said: Mum was magical, she won against the truck. One time, she drew a truck, then the therapist burned it with her.

The attack changed everything. We dont go out any more, we dont go to the Promenade des Anglais. As a mother, I dont think there is anything worse than thinking your child is going to die.

My family are Muslims and I talk a lot with Kenza so she knows the attack has nothing to do with Islam. There was a little boy at school who, during carnival, threw some confetti while saying: Allahu akbar and he was punished. Kenza said: But Mum, when Grandad prays he also says Allahu akbar. I explained that this is what the terrorists said when they did their mean acts. People should be clear: thats not what it is to be Muslim. Religion has always been co-opted by groups with bad intentions; for them, its just about power divide and rule and we must fight this by staying united. I want to educate children about this; I changed jobs last October and now do prevention and protection work in the citys schools.

Daniel Biddle

London Underground,7 July 2005

52 people killed, more than 700 injured

I came face to face with the worst of humanity and then the best: Daniel Biddle

I was travelling to work in Wembley. Id missed my stop so was on a diverted route, and I actually stood in the carriage about 18 inches away from the bomber. I remember looking at him seconds before he detonated the bomb. There was no fear, no apprehension. He knew what he was going to do and he was all right with it. There was a brilliant white flash, and suddenly I was on the floor of the tunnel. It was pure horror. Id see something horrendous, look away, and see something worse. Something was digging in my back, and when I pulled it out it was a foot. My left leg had been taken off in the blast, and my right leg was severed at the knee joint. The pole Id been holding had punctured my colon, rupturing my spleen and bowel, and both my arms had caught fire.

I was terrified of dying alone, so I screamed for help. I heard a deep South African voice say: My names Adrian dont worry, Ive been in this situation before. (I later found out he had done national service in Austria.) Then he pushed his hand into what was left of my leg and rooted around to find the artery and pinched it shut. We stayed like that for 40 minutes, with my life literally in his hands. The bravery he showed defies logic; he helped 10 or 11 people that day. One thing Ive always clung to is that in the space of about a minute Id come face to face with the worst of humanity and then the best. And I think there are more people like Adrian Heili than the terrorist.

Daniel Biddle was standing 18 inches from the attacker when he detonated a bomb just outside Edgware Road station

Once I got to hospital I suffered three cardiac arrests, and died each time. I was in surgery for 19 hours on the first day, and spent 51 weeks in hospital. One of the first doctors who looked after me was a young Muslim man, and what has upset me for years is that when he finished work and got the bus home, people would have been afraid of him. He was a phenomenal doctor and a lovely person, but if he was wearing a rucksack, people would have been frightened. What the terrorist had done is make life harder for honest, hard-working Muslims. I just cant get my head around that.

The physical injuries are a lot easier to live with than the mental trauma. I suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which has resulted in three suicide attempts.

Around the ninth anniversary, I reached a point where I wasnt progressing with my PTSD treatment. I decided to return to the same place in the same carriage I was in on the day of the bombing. They stopped the train in the tunnel where the bomb had gone off, and I thought: He got blown to 1,000 pieces, so there are still bits of him down there as rat food. And Im going to go and live my life. I didnt feel as shackled to it any more. It was a moment of closure.

Luis Ahijado

Atocha station, Madrid, 11 March 2004

191 people killed, about 1,800 wounded

Youd imagine people would be running and screaming, but there was total silence: Luis Ahijado with his mother, Paloma Roque Morales

My mother woke me up, because I was always late for work. I arrived at Entrevas station just as the train entered. I ran downstairs and got into the first compartment. Normally, I get on further down the platform. On the way to Atocha station, the bomb exploded. Something lifted me off the ground; I felt a very strong slap in the face, and fell. I heard a beep. There was dust. I could not open my eyes. The train was still moving. I pushed away the bodies of the people who were on top of me and threw myself off the train.

I started walking along the tracks towards Atocha. My jaw had been ripped open, and half my face was burned. Youd imagine people would be running and screaming, but there was total silence. I went back to my carriage to look for my backpack, but it was full of bodies. Already people had gone in to help. They said: Boy, no, dont go in there.

I said: Give me a phone, I want to call my family. I called my mother, told her there had been an explosion, and then the connection went. My mother, my dad, my girlfriend and my sister came looking for me, but the police wouldnt let them into Atocha. I started walking down the tracks again. I was dizzy, in shock. I went under a fence and then on to the street. The police stopped me, put me in a car with two other victims and took us to the hospital. In the hospital, a woman was sitting reading the newspaper. When she saw me, she covered her face with the paper. I thought: How must I look?

The treatment was horribly painful. They cleaned my face with a stiff brush the surgeons usually use to wash their hands. I had, among other things, crystal shards in my face. I also suffered a loss of sensitivity. Now, I touch one place on my face, but feel it in another. My eardrums are still ruptured. What kept me going was the thought that life goes on I had my hands, my feet.

I never had nightmares. I was being trained as a firefighter, and I didnt want anything to slow me down. When I went to the trial in 2008, I saw people who were still in very bad shape. I wished the terrorists the worst. We went when the monument was dedicated for the victims, and when flowers were laid at the railway tracks. Those are the moments when I feel depressed. I cry and cry and cry. I can hardly stop. It has to do with the energy in these places; there is so much sadness.

Then, in 2006, there was an attack on Terminal 4 of Madrid airport, where my mother worked. It was the other way around: I called, we went looking for her, and couldnt find her.

Ten bombs exploded on four trains in or around Atocha station in Madrid

Paloma Roque Morales, Luiss mother
Terminal 4, MadridBarajas airport,
30 December 2006

2 people killed, 41 wounded

I was working in Terminal 4 on the day that [Basque separatists] ETA planted the bomb. I was pretty close to it. They evacuated us all passengers, airport workers and brought us out on to the tarmac. It was horrific I couldnt believe it. When the bomb exploded, I stopped as if I was nailed down. Everyone knew what had happened to my son; they took care of me until I could talk to my family. They were waiting outside the airport, but they werent allowed in; everything was shut off. But I talked to them, and reassured them that nothing had happened to me.

For me, the first attack was far worse. At eight oclock in the morning, I woke my son, then fell back asleep. Suddenly the telephone rang: it was him and he said, wildly: Mama, the bomb, Mama, the bomb. For many hours I considered him lost.

After the first attack, I thought: Terrorism is here to paralyse people, but it will not paralyse me. But with the second attack, it did. If it happened once, and then a second time, it could happen again to me or any other family member. At first, I was able to get on the metro and the train, but now Im in therapy, because I had a relapse. I still work at the airport and go there every day. If I see more security people than usual, it catches up with me again. You are alarmed.

My son and I went to the trials of the train attackers, every day. I saw them sitting there, protected by safety glass. I hated them, but I hated the Spaniards much more; the people who had supplied the attackers with the dynamite. I have a lot of hatred, like my son. I do not forgive.

Russell Schulz
Breitscheidplatz Christmas market, Berlin, 19 December 2016

12 people killed, 56 injured

I am a composer, and sometimes I have a hard time writing music: Russell Schulz

I met my friends Peter and Richard, and we were having a wonderful time, talking and laughing in a little glhwein house. Something funny had just happened, Peter laughed and then we heard crashing sounds and he turned around. Then, I dont know what happened. It was dark. I was thrown to the ground. There were things going by me and over me, and I thought: This is serious, I could die.

I was under rubble, and I was covered with blood. When I stood up, the house was gone it was completely destroyed. I looked down, and there was a man lying there, and he was dead. And then I saw more bodies, and people running and screaming. In a minute, the place was filled with police. A policewoman came up to me and silently put her arm around my shoulder, as if to say: Youre not alone, were here and we care. I cannot possibly explain how important that simple action was at that moment.

Peter was dead. Later, I was told he was probably killed instantly. Richard called me he was badly wounded and had been thrown into the street. I said: Richard, I am here, you are not alone. And I looked at my hand and it was hugely swollen, and this worried me because Im a composer. When I was thrown to the ground, something had come down, and cut the veins and broken the bones in my arm. The police said: We dont know how you survived. Probably it was because I was sitting in the corner.

For months afterwards, I was terrified of noises. I would burst into tears for no reason other than pure stress and terror. An organisation called Weisser Ring referred me for trauma therapy. It bothered me very much, the unfairness of what had happened. We were in the same place but I was a few inches off to the side. I had survivors guilt. The therapist explained: You feel terrible, but empathy and guilt are not the same thing. Dont allow your empathy to evolve into guilt. Feel empathetic write Peter a letter and bury it, or do what feels helpful. And yes, think about these people. And I do.

Breitscheidplatz, Berlin, where terrorists drove into a busy Christmas market

There is now a beautiful, very simple memorial on the steps of the Gedchtniskirche. I first visited that church in 1965, when I was singing in a college choir and we gave a concert there, standing before the altar. Im not going to ignore what happened five decades later, 20 metres from where we stood, but Im going to carry forward the good things that happened things like that concert. The rest, theyre not going away, but they are in deep storage.

The freedom that comes with almost losing everything enables a different kind of thinking. Many times I have said: Im not going to put this off Id better do this now. I want to think that, in some ways, I became a better person because of the attack. I was wounded, mentally and physically, but I now have a better understanding and love for life.

I miss Peter and think about him every day. I am more easily stressed. Loud noises traffic and trucks are problematic. Sometimes I want to be alone, and this was never a pattern in my life before. And sometimes I have a hard time composing music. But the attacker didnt destroy me. He didnt destroy Berlin. He didnt destroy the culture. He didnt destroy the things we love. We carry on. He lost.

Chlo De Bacco and Mahdi Zaidi
Bataclan theatre and Le Carillon bar, Paris, 13 November 2015

130 people killed, 494 wounded, at six locations

We met in rehab, but thats not the reason were together: Chlo De Bacco with Mahdi Zaidi

I was at the Eagles Of Death Metal concert. Theyre loads of fun to see live because they put on an incredible show, and the audience ranges from 15 to 70 years old.

I suffered two bullet wounds, one in the leg and one in the arm. One of the nerves in my arm was severed and one of my arteries was affected, too. I was in a wheelchair for five months because I had major skeletal trauma and needed a transplant. I had lost about 80% of my abilities in my right hand. I spent two months in hospital, four months at a rehabilitation centre, and then over two years as a day patient. The hospital is a cocoon. When you go back home to your own bed, thats when the serious work starts. The difficult things now are more psychological.

By the time Mahdi arrived at the rehabilitation centre, Id been a day patient for a month, so I was familiar with the place, and I knew everyone. There were a few of us, either from the Bataclan, from the cafe terraces, or even from the Stade de France. We were all in the same boat; wed become a symbol of something that we absolutely did not want to represent. I saw Mahdi, and told myself: Ill go and speak to him so that hes not alone. But he wasnt very talkative that day.

You dont want to be a 13 November couple. We spent two years in rehabilitation, and just as some people meet at their workplace, thats where we met. We understand each other better when it comes to certain things, but thats not the reason were together. I dont see Mahdis scars. Ive been living with my scars for three years, and of course Id rather they werent there, but they are.

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