In the hours that followed the deadly terrorists attack that claimed the lives of 129 people in Paris, the scale of the tragedy was painfully apparent in the harrowing photographs that emerged. One showed a dead body covered with a sheet on a familiar-looking Parisian street, another showed gruesome blood splatter on the windows of a café, and too many portrayed Parisians in a state of fear.
But that night, one photo stood apart, embodying a profession’s resilience in the face of adversity. Taken by Dr. Pourya Pashootan, it showed an overcrowded recovery room at the Saint Louis hospital as 40 doctors, nurses and anesthetists worked together to treat victims from the attacks.
The photo, shared on Facebook, has amassed hundreds of thousands of likes and shares, going viral at a moment when France needed to show its resolve against terror.
On a normal night, only a skeleton crew stays on call at the Saint Louis hospital, but that evening, as the death toll rose and the French authorities put its emergency response plan in action, hundreds of doctors and nurses across Paris answered the call of duty.
“Without thinking about the danger, without hesitation, we all showed up,” Dr. Pashootan tells TIME. “When I saw that, I found it beautiful. I took the photo and when I got home I felt it’d be a shame not to share it.”
After blurring some of the recognizable faces, Dr. Pashootan shared the photograph on his Facebook account. “I didn’t expect it to go viral,” he says. But within minutes, dozens of his contacts had shared the images on their own Facebook account. It snowballed from there.
“It’s a picture that speaks for itself,” says Dr. Pashootan. “It doesn’t need a caption. There aren’t a lot of photographs like that one. It shows an entire profession mobilized and ready to face the worst of events.”
In a country where gunshot injuries are extremely rare, Dr. Pashootan equates what he experienced on Nov. 13 to what you’d expect to see in a conflict zone. “It’s not the kind of scenes we’re used to seeing,” he says. “This felt like war.”