New world disorder

Foreign showbizzers watch, worry as tragedy unfolds

PARIS — The shock waves of the terrorist attack in the U.S. were felt as far afield as the French Riviera, where hundreds of international buyers and local distribs attending a Gallic TV mart in St. Tropez abandoned the rendezvous and rushed back to their hotels to watch the news on television.

A screening room that had been filled with buyers emptied in minutes. Every available computer was plugged into the Internet as anxious TV execs sent emails to family and colleagues in the U.S. and searched for further information. The few execs who tried to carry on with business meetings soon found their attention wandering to the cataclysmic events playing out thousands of miles away.

“You try to have normal conversations with people, but it is impossible to concentrate,” said Mathieu Bejot, managing director of TV France Intl., which organized the mart. “Nobody could think of anything else. Many of the participants have links with the U.S., and even those who don’t feel traumatized by what has happened.”

The mood was subdued at an al fresco dinner overlooking St. Tropez port last night as the extent of the tragedy started to sink in. Those still in shock included Suzanne Laverdiere, general manager of acquisitions at CBC Radio Canada.

“Montreal isn’t far from New York, and so it feels like this has happened close to home. I feel profoundly saddened — like everyone else here.”

In Paris, French President Jacques Chirac condemned the terrible tragedy. “No country in the world has ever before been the target of such violent terrorist attacks,” the French leader said on TV, expressing “the solidarity of all French citizens with the American people in their terrible ordeal.”

Within hours of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the French government launched its own antiterrorist security plan. “What has happened in the U.S. concerns us all,” Chirac said.

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