Arras attack: Mourners pay tribute to ‘much loved’ teacher Dominique Bernard

Dominique Bernard “didn’t like crowds and honours”, but the teacher who was stabbed to death by a former pupil outside his Arras secondary school during a jihadist attack that put France on high alert was buried with great pomp on Thursday in front of several hundred people.

“Sensitive and discreet, he did not like the noise and fury of the world. He loved his daughters, his mother and his sister deeply. We loved each other,” said his wife Isabelle, also a teacher, to those present at the cathedral in the northern city of Arras.

Among them were the Head of State Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte and the Minister for Education Gabriel Attal.

The ceremony, presided over by the bishop of Arras, Olivier Leborgne, was shown on a large screen in a square in the town centre, in front of almost 600 people, according to the Pas-de-Calais prefecture, some embracing their loved ones, others holding a white rose.

A photo of the teacher was displayed on the façade of the town hall.

The portrait of late French teacher Dominique Bernard who was stabbed to death at the school by a suspected Islamist extremist, is on display, in Arras, France, Oct 19 2023

“We are distraught, but together. We are here, stunned, but refusing to be crushed”, said the bishop.

“I can see your silhouette in the teachers’ lounge, I can still see your shirt, the cup you’re holding, your mischievous smile because you have something funny to say”, said a colleague, Aurélie.

Dominique Bernard, 57, has been made a Knight of the Legion of Honour by the French President Emmanuel Macron, according to a decree published on Thursday. Macron met his family before the ceremony.

A large number of bouquets of roses were laid in front of the cathedral, where the coffin was welcomed by around thirty teachers and staff from the Gambetta secondary school, the scene of the tragedy.

A man places a flower to pay tribute to French teacher Dominique Bernard during his funeral, in Arras, northern France, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.

“Mr Bernard was kind and passionate, he loved to help us discover literature, and he always had little extra things to tell us about the authors he was introducing,” said Maxime, one of his former pupils, who watched the ceremony on the big screen, accompanied by his mother.

Mattheo Tenti, 18, who taught him in his final year of secondary school, described him as “a really sociable, relaxed teacher who always listened to his pupils when they had problems. A lovely person”.

A large police presence was deployed in a large part of the city centre, where traffic was banned until 3 p.m.

The murder of Dominique Bernard on 13 October, almost three years to the day after the murder of history and geography teacher Samuel Paty in the Paris region by a radicalised young man, sent shockwaves through the teaching profession in particular.

A minute’s silence was observed on Monday in all secondary schools in France in memory of Dominique Bernard and Samuel Paty.

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