A man who shielded his girlfriend as gunmen opened fire during the Paris terror attacks has spoken of his experiences almost a year on.
South Shields man Michael O’Connor, who lives in Lyon, France, with partner Sara Badel Craeye, was in the capital as the couple planned to enjoy a romantic weekend.
They had gone to see one of Sara’s favourite bands, the Eagles of Death Metal, at the Bataclan when they became caught up in the shooting as attackers burst in, firing at the crowd.
Now, 12 months on, Michael, has spoken about how the ordeal has changed him and how he is struggling in its aftermath.
He had feared he and Sara were going to die and had told her he loved her as the attackers began to fire.
Michael, 31, said: “Especially now, with the anniversary, I feel like when something comes through there are fresh memories, you remember were you were this time last year.
Obviously time is a great healer and a year isn’t a long time and I’m grateful for so many things, I feel like I will get back to the person I was.Michael O’Connor
“I feel like before I was far more carefree, much more confident and much more happier. “It has changed me on every level.
“Obviously time is a great healer and a year isn’t a long time and I’m grateful for so many things, I feel like I will get back to the person I was.
“Sometimes I can find myself go over something really small, just completely loose my temper.
“That’s not now who I am.”
In the days after the attack, which saw more than 1,000 people come under threat from the gunmen, Michael said: “The concert had been planned for months. Eagles of Death Metal are one of Sara’s favourite bands and it was the first time I had been to Paris. I thought it would be a lovely romantic weekend.
“On the day, it just seemed as though the world was against us. We missed the train and lost our tickets. It was just a mad dash to get there.”
Michael had wanted to stay at the back of the venue and it was only Sara’s insistence that saw the couple move towards the front.
It was a decision which, he says “undoubtedly” saved their lives.
The couple lay for more than two hours, “playing dead” with other survivors.
Their ordeal only came to an end when police stormed the building.
Hundreds of people were left injured and 130 people lost their lives as killers carried out a series of deadly attacks in the capital.
Gunmen and suicide bombers hit the concert hall, along with a major stadium, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously.
An anniversary concert will be performed by Sting at the Bataclan.
Michael can be heard talking to 5Live’s Stephen Nolan about his experiences in a special programme which will be broadcast at 10pm on Sunday.