American survivor of Paris terror attack speaks out after emotional testimony

PARIS – As she finished her testimony in the courthouse of the Palace of Justice in central Paris late Wednesday, Helen Wilson burst into tears.

Wilson, 55, wore a t-shirt that said “Love Always Wins” and had just told the court about the night of November 13, 2015.

She remembered her boyfriend Nick Alexander dying in her arms after gunmen stormed the French capital’s Bataclan theater in coordinated terrorist attacks across the city that killed 131 people.

“I didn’t mean to let him go,” she told NBC News shortly after taking the stand. “I wouldn’t leave him alone. Why should I let him die? “

Wilson, an American citizen, was shot in both legs on the night of the attack.

She added that she looked at Salah Abdeslam – the main defendant in the case – several times during her testimony.

The 31-year-old, who defiantly referred to himself as a “soldier of the Islamic State” at the beginning of the trial, is believed to be the only surviving member of the ISIS-affiliated group that bombed six restaurants and bars, the Stade de France sports stadium and the Bataclan concert hall.

Nineteen other defendants will be tried in connection with the attacks, which also injured hundreds.

Helen Wilson.NBC news

Wilson said she wanted Abdeslam to recognize what he did and admits “he made a lot of bad decisions and he is sorry for hurting so many people who didn’t deserve it.”

“I doubt I’ll get this,” she added. “I’m not waiting for him to say that.”

At one point, however, Wilson, who was left with nerve damage and chronic pain after bullets from the AK-47 tore away muscle tissue in her legs, said she felt the defendants were “listening to what I had to say”.

“They looked at me when I looked over,” she said. “You didn’t ignore me, so that’s something, isn’t it. Who knows, maybe I touched one of them. … Maybe their hearts are being torn apart now. ”

Mohamed Amghar, 53, also testified last week.

The French-American citizen was working as a security guard at the National Stadium when two suicide bombers struck near the gate he was working on. A third aimed at another part of the stadium. Five deliberate shrapnel bolts were set into its left side.

He said Tuesday that he would testify to tell the defendants that their view of Islam was wrong.

“His Islam is a different Islam,” he said. “This is not my Islam.”

Mohamed Amghar.William O’Reilly / NBC News

He added that he thought Abdeslam might have been brainwashed. “I don’t think killing people will bring us to paradise,” he said.

“The man is lost,” he added. “He needs help.”

More than 300 survivors and families of the victims will testify in court, and each will have 20 minutes to tell the court about the night that changed their lives.

Amghar said it was “important” that people be there. “This is our story,” he added. “Everyone has their story. It’s like we’re family. We have to be there. ”

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Wilson said she would also go to court to hear Abdeslam’s testimony.

“I can’t make up my mind if I don’t know the full story,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to me to listen to them.”

She added that time would tell if the process, set to run in May at the earliest, will bring her to a close.

“I don’t know we really get degrees on a lot of things,” she said. “I think things change, but they always stay with us.”

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