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A Sister Rushes to Paris After Attacks Only to Find Out: ‘I Just Lost a Part of Myself’

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Slender and dark-haired, Aurélie de Peretti loved music, played the guitar and piano, and reveled living near the beach in her hometown of Saint Tropez in the South of France, where she worked at a beach resort during the summers. And when Fall came in September, she began planning a weekend trip to Paris with a friend, in order to indulge one of her favorite passions—listening to live concerts in the city’s music venues.

So it was that on Friday night, de Peretti, 33, found herself jiving to the music of the Californian group Eagles of Death Metal in the Bataclan music hall, when four suicide bombers stormed the building with Kalashnikov rifles and began shooting those inside.

At that moment, de Peretti’s sister Delphine, 35, was at a theater performance in London, where she lives, and stepped out briefly to smoke a cigarette on the street. She idly checked her phone, and found a blast of breaking news from Paris, including of a massacre underway at the Bataclan hall. A chill went through her. “I knew Aurélie was there, because she’d posted on Facebook that she wanted to go hear that group,” she told TIME on Saturday night, standing outside the building of the 11th district council in eastern Paris, where city officials have set up a makeshift counseling session for survivors and relatives. “I’d posted a response saying ‘enjoy your great evening listening to that crap music.'”

She began frantically calling her sister’s cell phone but there was no answer. Then she called her parents in Saint Tropez, but they had gone to bed early, and had not heard about the Paris attacks. So Delphine spent the night with close friends in Paris, and at 5 a.m. hopped an almost empty train to Paris, arriving to find her grief-stricken mother at the Gare du Nord station in the French capital. A call from the Paris police had confirmed that Aurélie was among the 89 people killed in the Bataclan concert hall.

Choking back tears, her father Jean-Marie de Peretti said he still could not grasp that his daughter was gone. “I am speaking about her now in the past tense,” he said, incredulously, shaking his head, as he stood outside the counseling center. “She was luminous.” Next to him stood the suitcase he had traveled to Paris with, in which was jammed the day’s newspapers filled with scenes of horror and bloodshed.

All day on Saturday relatives and survivors from Friday’s attacks have emerged on the streets of Paris—at the morgue, or the sites of the attacks, or simply among friends in the capital, filling in the details of who was killed. And while French officials have cited the victims only as figures—129 dead and about 350 injured—their personalities and lives are emerging in countless stories around Paris. With the attacks focused on huge events—a football match and a music concert—it seemed that many Parisians on Saturday knew someone whom Friday’s attacks impacted.

For the two de Peretti sisters, the ribbing on Facebook over their widely different musical tastes was typical, Delphine said with a soft smile. Intensely close, the two shared each other’s good looks, and spent their childhoods in each other’s company, swimming, horse-riding and hiking. “Eventually I wanted to escape the South of France and she wanted to stay,” Delphine said.

But although the older sister moved to London, she says the two of them dreamed of being involved in each other’s futures, perhaps having children who would grow up as close cousins. “I left 13 years ago,” Delphine said, “and yet somehow we got closer and closer over the years.” Smiling and without tears, she apologized for appearing to have little emotion about the family tragedy. “I must seem cold right now,” she said. “But I just cannot believe that I just lost a part of myself.”

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