Survivor of 2015 Paris attack has message of resilience for Honolulu audiences

Survivor of 2015 Paris attack has message of resilience for Honolulu audiences

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 2015 terror attack in Paris killed 130 people, including 90 at the Bataclan concert hall.

Ferry Zandvliet was in the audience.

"We went to a rock show. One big party! Having a beer, having a dance. And suddenly a war zone!" he said.

Three terrorists entered the hall brandishing assault weapons and started shooting.

Zandvliet wasn’t shot but fell to the floor and lay motionless for many minutes until he escaped with other survivors through an emergency exit.

"I just ran, ran away as far as I could, hearing the shooting behind me. Survival instinct. We all have it," he said.

But he couldn’t outrun the post traumatic stress that followed. For more than a year, he was plagued by panic attacks and nightmares.

Professional therapy helped, as did talking about the ordeal. In the past three years, Zandvliet’s told his story in public settings more than 300 times.

In Europe, the 40-year-old native of Netherlands is now a sought-after public speaker.

“When I talk to the little ones it’s more about dealing with setbacks. But I also talk to the police counter-terrorism units. They want to know everything about the attack,” he said.

Zandvliet runs an online support group for terrorism survivors called "Na de klap." In English it means "after the bang."

He also befriended the father of one of the Bataclan shooters.

“In my opinion, he’s also a victim. He lost a son. A lot of people were blaming the family for what their son had done,” he said.

Zandvliet is on Oahu this week to speak to Rotary groups in Waikiki and Waianae, and to Honolulu police.

He says the terrifying ordeal four years ago made him a better person.

"I complained a lot. I complain about nothing anymore. I'm never angry anymore," he said.

Zandvliet said terrorists hope to strike fear in people. Speaking out is his way of striking back.

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