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Bataclan survivor: Attacks in Paris ‘no excuse for racism’

When terrorists attacked six locations in Paris last week, the concert hall -- the Bataclan -- saw the worst bloodshed. Eighty-nine people died there. One survivor was a 31-year-old English woman, who spoke to NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant in her first interview about the ordeal.

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  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    After living in Paris for 13 years, Yorkshire-born fashion design assistant Sarah Perks says she feels more French than British, especially now that she survived the terrorist attack on the Bataclan concert hall.

    So, how are you doing?

  • SARAH PERKS:

    I am not quite sure that it has sunk in, and more than anything, I am incredibly lucky, but otherwise gladness of miraculously of being alive sort of overcomes everything else and a little bit numb.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    What did you see?

  • SARAH PERKS:

    I assumed it was just two people shooting at one another, and that at one point one of them would get the other one, and it would all be over and done with.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    But as she cautiously glanced around and saw the carnage, Sarah realized the magnitude of what was happening.

  • SARAH PERKS:

    I mean, obviously, I understood it was serious from the amount, the quantity of gun noises and also from the fact that I was visibly not far at all from one of the people shooting, because there were a lot of cases around me, a lot of, like, bullet shells.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    For more than two hours, Sarah lay on the ground as the terrorists committed murder again and again. Off camera, she showed us a bruise where a bullet grazed her shoulder.

  • SARAH PERKS:

    Then the terrorists gave a phone number, said that they had hostages, obviously, and then said that they had explosives. So that's when I was really like, 'Oh God, we're not going to get out of here alive.'

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    How did you manage to hold it together?

  • SARAH PERKS:

    I don't know, you just do. Everyone was very, very quiet, very silent. I mean, I'm not exactly going to go, 'Hey, I'm here, I'm still alive, come get me.'

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Describe what those two-and-a-quarter-hours were like?

  • SARAH PERKS:

    Very long. Very, very long. Very frightening, obviously, very frightening,

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    So were you playing dead, basically?

  • SARAH PERKS:

    Most people were, yeah, the ones that got out, at least.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Eventually, French special forces moved in…killing one terrorist. Two others blew themselves up. Sarah and her fellow hostages were ushered to safety.

    Do you have survivor's guilt?

  • SARAH PERKS:

    Yes, of course, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I am not more outwardly, visibly showing trauma for the people that have lost their lives.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Sarah believes one motive of the terrorists and their controllers was to divide Western society. She says her view of Muslims won't change.

  • SARAH PERKS:

    I really hope that people are not going to allow it as an excuse for racism. Not everyone named Mohammed is a terrorist. They're my friends, they're my coworkers, people that I buy apples from on a Sunday.

    They're people I sit with in the Metro — they give up their seat for me. This has nothing to with Islam. These people are not about religion — they are ill, they're ill.

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