When terrorists burst through the doors of the Bataclan and began shooting, 22-year-old Isobel Bowdery said she "naively believed it was all part of the show." But when dozens of people were shot right in front of her, she realized "it wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre."
That was just the beginning of Bowdery's near-fatal experience in the concert venue, where more than 80 people were killed during one of the six coordinated terrorist attacks that plagued Paris on Friday night. In a Facebook post that's now going viral, the South African woman shared the story of how she played dead for over an hour to avoid being shot.
"Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless," she wrote. "Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry — not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive."
Bowdery described what went through her head as she "lay down in the blood of strangers," "waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years":
"I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you. over and over again. reflecting on the highlights of my life. Wishing that those i love knew just how much, wishing that they knew that no matter what happened to me, to keep belieivng in the good in people. to not let those men win."
She also used the post to honor those who helped her through the ordeal, both during the attack and after her escape:
"To the man who reassured me and put his life on line to try and cover my brain whilst i whimpered, to the couple whose last words of love kept me believing the good in the world, to the police who succeded in rescuing hundreds of people, to the complete strangers who picked me up from the road and consoled me during the 45 minutes I truly believed the boy i loved was dead, to the injured man who i had mistaken for him and then on my recognition that he was not Amaury, held me and told me everything was going to be fine despite being all alone and scared himself, to the woman who opened her doors to the survivors, to the friend who offered me shelter and went out to buy new clothes so i wouldnt have to wear this blood stained top, to all of you who have sent caring messages of support - you make me believe this world has the potential to be better. to never let this happen again."
Most of all, Bowdery paid tribute to the scores of people killed in the attack — "who weren't as lucky," she wrote, "who didn't get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through."
"I am so sorry. There's nothing that will fix the pain. I feel priviledged to be there for their last breaths," Bowdery wrote. "And truly believing that I would join them, I promise that their last thoughts were not on the animals who caused all this. It was thinking of the people they loved."
The Facebook post, which includes an image of the bloodstained shirt Bowdery wore on the night of the attack, has garnered more than 4,700 likes and has been shared more than 2,000 times. Thousands of commenters have offered Bowdery their love and support and applauded her bravery.