PARIS – A strong boom shocked Paris and its suburbs on Wednesday, stopping pedestrians, interrupting tennis players at the French Open and sending social media to speculation about the origins of the noise.
The source turned out to be a fighter that broke through the sound barrier while he heard, authorities quickly said, appealing for calm and asking residents, annoyed by the sound, to stop calling emergency lines.
But in a city still deeply affected by devastating terrorist attacks in 2015 – and smaller, sporadic incidents since then – many have thought, even if only for a moment, “Is this another one?”
The threat of terrorism in the French capital has never diminished, authorities often warn, but fears of an attack have been particularly noticeable in the past week. On Friday, a man attacked two people by cutting meat in front of the former Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, amid an ongoing trial against several people in connection with the 2015 attack on the publication.
The fighter jet, France’s Rafale, was pulled from an air force base about 100 miles east of Paris to help a civilian plane that lost contact with air traffic control, the French air defense command said in a statement on Twitter.
The plane was allowed to travel at supersonic speed just before noon as it flew over Creteil, a southeastern suburb of Paris, to catch up quickly with the plane heading for Brittany. The boom immediately slammed windows in the area.
“Radio communication with the civilian aircraft has been restored and the situation is normalizing,” the statement said, adding that French fighter jets or helicopters intervene in more than 200 such incidents each year.
The sound of the jet could be heard throughout the city and even a few miles away in its sprawling suburbs.
The boom even briefly interrupted a tennis match between Stan Wawrinka and Dominique Köpfer at the French Open, which took place in the western part of Paris. In an almost empty stadium – due to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic – both men stopped playing and stared at the sky in bewilderment as the noise echoed through the empty stands.
The video, which was widely circulated on social media, was eerily reminiscent of a football match at the Stade de France, a stadium north of the capital, in November 2015, when a loud explosive noise was heard.
In this case, however, the threat was real. The source of the noise is a suicide bomber who blew up an explosive vest right in front of the stadium as the first in a series of deadly attacks in and around Paris that eventually left more than 100 dead.
Elian Peltier contributed to the reporting.