Barely anything has changed in a year. The same white floating angel – a sticker on an adjacent door – continues to guard the scene where, on Nov. 13, 2015, the lifeless body of a victim of the Paris attacks rested under a sheet, undisturbed, almost as if forgotten.
That’s how Jerome Delay, an Associated Press photographer, defined the scene when he took one of the most heart-wrenching photographs of that night’s events. “It felt like I wasn’t supposed to be here; that I wasn’t supposed to see it,” he told TIME then. The identity of the lone body, illuminated by the soft light of a street lamp, was never revealed. The image became, for many, a symbol of that night’s tragic events, when 130 people were killed in six coordinated attacks.
As the first anniversary of the attacks approached, Delay revisited the scene. “It felt weird to go back and find it the way it was, as if nothing had been touched,” he says. “What caught my attention was this sticker on one of the poles on the left. It was still there. Parts of the police cordons, which were put up after I took the initial photo, are still there as well. It’s as if this place became sacred. As if people didn’t dare touch the place.”
And yet, life continues.
“For the people in these photographs, this place is nothing more than a street,” he says. “They don’t realize what happened there.” Delay felt the urged to stop them to tell them but, “like that night, I didn’t want to speak to anyone. When you return to the place, you start thinking again about that night. You start reliving the events of that night.”
That night, when Delay learned of the attacks, he didn’t want to go out and photograph the aftermath. “My boss told me to go,” he says. “Looking back, the fact that I didn’t want to go was maybe a mechanism to protect myself, a sort of way to refute reality. For these pictures, a year later, it felt the same. I was a little bit uncomfortable at first, but in the end, it worked out. I think these photos are, in a strange way, poetic.”
Jerome Delay is the Associated Press’ chief photographer for Africa.
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