By Crispian Balmer
Standing before a makeshift memorial to the dead, strewn with candles, flowers and scribbled notes, Caroline Pallut hid her tears behind dark glasses.
Her cousin, 37-year-old Maud Serrault, died on Friday night when Islamist gunmen attacked a Paris rock concert in a coordinated series of strikes across the city that killed 129 people and injured a further 352.
“We are living a nightmare,” Pallut said. “It is all so senseless. She had only just got married.” Her husband managed to flee the assault, but lost his wife in the confusion. The family’s frantic searches eventually led to a city morgue.
Two days after the worst attacks in France since World War Two, the names of many victims are starting to emerge, their smiling faces shining out from an array of social websites — a cameraman, a foreign exchange student, lawyers, an artist, a journalist, tourists, two sisters at a birthday party.
Because the killers struck on a Friday night, targeting a packed concert hall, bars and a soccer stadium, many of the dead were young, their lifes and loves openly posted on the Internet, which has now been used to mark their passing.
Friends of a young couple from eastern France, Marie Lausch and Mathias Dymarski, announced their deaths on Youtube. French music magazine, Les Inrocks, announced the death of one of their journalists, Guillaume Decherf, on its website, saying the 43-year-old was the father of two children.
All three died at the Bataclan concert hall, alongside 86 other victims killed when gunmen opened fire on a crowd watching the U.S. rock band Eagles of Death Metal.
The musicians all escaped, but their merchandise manager, a 36-year-old Briton named Nick Alexander, died.
“Nick was not just our brother, son and uncle, he was everyone’s best friend, generous, funny and fiercely loyal,” his family said in a statement.
Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and the dead came from Congo to California and from Mexico to Morocco.
Two Romanians — Ciprian Calciu and his girlfriend Lacramioara Pop — were shot dead at the Belle Equipe bar. “The two had the bad luck to be in the wrong place,” Romanian government official Anton Rohian said in a statement.
One of the oldest victims was Patricia San Martin Nunez, 61, from Chile, who died alongside her daughter Elsa Delplace.
Many of those killed were young students drawn to Paris’s renowned centres of higher education.
Valeria Solesin, 28, was a PhD student from Italy studying demographics at the Sorbonne University. She died at the entrance to Bataclan, shot as she was trying to enter.
“This sort of thing usually happens to other people,” her father, Alberto Solesin, told Italy’s SkyTG24. “She had a scholarship and she would have finished her degree next year.”
Other students included Elodie Breuil, 23, a French woman who was following a course in design at the Conde School, and U.S. citizen Nohemi Gonzalez, also 23, a student from California State University, Long Beach, who was on an exchange programme.
Desperate for news of missing loved ones, relatives and friends used the #rechercheParis hashtag on Twitter immediately after the attack, but by Sunday new postings had dwindled and the authorities said they had identified 103 of the dead.
Flowers lay heaped at the sites of all the killings, with visitors and locals alike coming to pay their respects.
Hundreds also gathered at the central Place de la Republique, which has became an enduring shrine to 17 people killed when Islamist gunmen hit the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket in January.
Among the crowds were two friends from Colombia, who moved to France this year and knew a man who was shot and injured at Bataclan. Lighting candals, they brushed away their tears.
“We had seen so much barbarity and violence back home that we felt we had to leave and see something new. We never thought we would see this here too,” said Caroline Roatta Acevedo.