Paris – Standing completely still, his eyes fixed on the flowers, flags and flickering candles at his feet, Barack Obama paid his own silent tribute to those who died in Paris’s Bataclan concert venue.
Only minutes before, in the early hours of Monday, the US president had landed at Orly airport to attend a huge climate summit aimed at clinching an international deal to combat global warming.
His first act was to visit the concert hall where, on November 13, militants armed with AK47s and suicide vests killed 90 people in the bloodiest of a wave of attacks across the French capital.
Standing in front of the site, Obama stayed silent, moving only to step forward and place a rose among the tributes.
At his right stood French President Francois Hollande, who the US president had received five days earlier at the White House, and next to him, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Obama’s brief visit to the concert hall in the east of the city was not announced in advance due to security concerns which have been heightened since the Paris attacks.
In all, 130 people lost their lives in the killings claimed by Daesh, which also targeted restaurants and France’s national stadium.
The Bataclan has become a rallying point for those mourning the victims of the Paris attacks, including leaders from Britain, Canada and Chile as well as Irish rock group U2.
Thousands of ordinary people have also come to say goodbye — a stream of grave, incredulous and often tearful visitors passing by day after day.
Among them was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who on Sunday laid flowers at the Bataclan.
“Each of these numerous bouquets laid here carries much sadness,” he said in remarks released by Japan’s ambassador.
“But at the same time, it seems to me that these bouquets also show a deep desire for peace and freedom. I hope that such a tragedy, like any other terrorist act, will never be repeated.”
Since that night of terror, the US president has also redoubled his pledge of friendship with France.