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Saving a Life and a Light-Show in the City of Light and Liberation

French president Hollande in the Rain at the Hôtel de Ville - Paris, FranceFrench president Hollande in the Rain at the Hôtel de VilleIt was part of the plan to be one of the many thousands at the Hôtel de Ville to participate in the celebration of 70th year since the liberation of the city of Paris, but sometimes things just don’t go the way they are planned.

The weather looked ominous — 100% chance of rain predicted for the evening. Normally that doesn’t stop a Parisian from taking part in important events in the city. With a raincoat and an umbrella, closed shoes and a good attitude, it can be overcome. Even French President François Hollande stood in the rain without an umbrella — to prove a point. So, it wasn’t that which prevented me from being on the “parvis” Monday evening.

Instead, an email arrived from a friend of a guest in one of my own apartments early in the day. He was concerned, because she hadn’t been in touch with him for days and that was so unlike her. No one thought much of that — sometimes communications get a bit difficult or a tourist can get awfully busy simply enjoying himself/herself and forget about those at home. But…no problem — let’s go check it out and see if all is well.

There was no answer to calls, emails, nor to the buzz of the ‘interphone,’ so I walked up the stairs to the apartment and knocked…a few times. After a bit, she answered. She was wearing nothing and didn’t seem to care. “Are you all right?” I asked. She answered, “No, I’m not.”

Without going into detail, let’s just say the apartment looked like a hurricane had hit. There was strong evidence of self abuse and she admitted to wanting to die. That’s what she had been trying to do — or at least ‘go to sleep’ by numbing herself with drugs and alcohol. She was agitated and conscious, but clearly inebriated.

Emergency help is a two-digit phone call away. Medical help or “SAMU” is a simple “15.” It was tough to explain, but I answered their questions best I could in French and with urgency in my voice, they agreed to send an ambulance. Meanwhile I got her dressed, then she promptly soiled her pants-suit and I dressed her again.

In crisis management, it’s hard to know how one might react in such a situation. You have to think fast on your feet and take control of the situation instead of letting the situation control you. It’s rare to be put in such a position. I’ve sadly been witness to two attempted suicides before (both who survived), but never have I been so directly involved in being instrumental in saving the victim.

The ambulance arrived about 30 minutes later. It seemed important to keep her from passing out, so to do that and keep the atmosphere lighthearted, I made dumb jokes to which she would laugh out loud…but it was clear she wasn’t really aware of what was going on.

The medics arrived, asked questions, filled out forms and then carried her down to a stretcher. They rolled it to the ambulance parked at the corner, then whisked us all through traffic weaving in and out to arrive at a nearby hospital, where she was quickly admitted.

Once she was safe and sound, my troops gathered to get the apartment cleaned up. Twenty bottles of wine were discarded along with leftover foodstuff strewn everywhere. Every single linen needed washing. Her bag got packed. Within a couple hours, the apartment was spotless again — with no real damage done.

Note: Here’s a great link to everything you need to know about emergency services in France.

Light show at the Hôtel de Ville - photo by Lisa AnselmoLight show at the Hôtel de Ville – photo by Lisa AnselmoThirty minutes later I headed out on the street to go to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris at the Hôtel de Ville, only to realize that every ounce of energy left in my body had gone out the door with the stress of a frightening experience. As much as I hate missing important events, this was one that had to go in lieu of rest in bed, so I did an about face and headed home.

From bed with France 3 on the TV, a documentary about the liberation aired while at the same time, the festivities were taking place on the “Parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville”…without me. Flipping through the channels was of no use — no one was broadcasting the show live.

Liberation celebration via TV 3 - Paris, FranceLiberation celebration via TV 3“Why not?” I wondered. Why wouldn’t the show be broadcast live so that the whole world could see it at the same time as the thousands bearing the cool rain on site? What prevented the network from doing what seemed so natural and obvious? It aired once the real show was over, taken from perfectly orchestrated vantage points high above the Hôtel de Ville.


The light show on the Liberation celebration via TV 3 - Paris, Francefacade of the Hôtel de Ville, along with the live performance accompanying it, was like nothing I had ever seen, even from under the covers. Lisa Anselmo, author of the blog, “My Part Time Paris Life,” kept me connected by texting periodically with a report on how much fun she and her friend were having — how the light-show had brought tears to her eyes and then how the dancing was total elation! I missed it live, but certainly not in spirit.

See it for yourself — here it is in its entirety!

The next day, our patient was thankfully alive and well and wanting to head home today. The ambulance bill was about 100€ and I’ll be anxious to hear how much her two-night stay cost in a French hospital. It wasn’t what she had in mind when she came to Paris — so perhaps she must return again for a different kind of experience.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group Inc - in CroatiaAdrian Leeds

Editor, Parler Paris & The Adrian Leeds Group

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P.S. Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group reopens on Saturday, September 6, 2014. The Annual La Rentrée Party is on Saturday, September 13, 2014. Snacks and light drinks will be served and there is a special offer for that day only: receive 12 sessions for the price of 10, and 24 sessions for the price of 20. For all the details visit Parler Parlor


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