“Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise,” is painted above a doorframe in the bookstore and café Shakespeare & Co. It’s a motto that the iconic address certainly took to heart on Friday evening when Paris went into lockdown following the most deadly attacks on French soil since World War II. Shakespeare & Co’s staff sheltered roughly 20 people during the lockdown, many of whom ended up spending the night among the bookshelves and coffee machines. Owner Sylvia Whitman, however, is reluctant to be singled out as a hero. “This wasn’t exceptional,” she insists. “There were many places that closed with customers inside.”
Sadly, she’s right – it wasn’t exceptional. Many shops, restaurants and bars ended up sheltering patrons for hours on end. What was exceptional were the actions of staff who went above and beyond the call of duty on Friday evening to ensure that guests were taken care of.