London has its Postman’s Park, where individual acts of (tragic) heroism are remembered, but you have to look hard to find anything similar in Paris.
|The agent Charles Bailly|
It was on November 2nd 1901 that tragedy struck. That morning, Bailly and another member of the brigade named Marmas were alerted by the cries of a group of people alongside the river. A woman had jumped in near the Pont Marie, and was being swept along by the current. Bailly immediately jumped in after her and swam to her assistance. Just as he reached her, the current dragged both of them under a group of barges that were moored alongside the quai. Marmas, who leaped in the river in an attempt to save both of them, was quickly fished out and survived, but Bailly and the woman were trapped and died.
Little was ever known about the woman. She had the name Émilie stitched on her blouse, and it is believed that she was a 38 year old concierge named Émilie Vallée. The name of Charles Bailly though soon became famous throughout the city. The newspaper Le Matin published full details of the story in its edition of the following day, and all of Paris was touched by Bailly’s heroism.
|The Rue de l'Agent Bailly|
The Rue de l'Agent Bailly has obviously never been one of the city's major arteries, but it still retains a certain charm today. Originally an impasse, it became a full passage in 1899, but still seems to be more of a backstreet than anything else.
Curiously it is exactly 100m long, and as narrow as a footpath. Cars don't seem to use the street, and its blank walls have become something of an open-air gallery. Another curiousity is a self-service bookstand that someone has set up half-way along its length. Empty when I passed by, people are encouraged to share books by putting their used ones on its shelves and picking up anything else that takes their fancy.