In Memory of Paris
It’s been a month since I last blogged and everything’s been quiet for the most part. The weather gets colder every day, however.
I would like to talk in this entry only about the horrible Paris Attacks of November 14, an event that has shaken not only the City of Lights and France, but Europe and the world as a whole. During these terrible terrorist events, 130 innocent people lost their lives including people who were attending a rock concert at Le Bataclan hall by American band Eagles of Death Metal. These people were simply enjoying a night out with their friends and, unfortunately they lost their lives to terrorism. The French president François Hollande was informed while he was at a soccer match at the Stade de France, where there were some failed attempts of bombing the stadium. The government reacted by stopping public transportation in Paris as well as closing the borders. Most world leaders shortly manifested their sympathy with France, and many vowed to do their best to fight terrorism, domestic or abroad (referring to the Islamic State, the organization responsible for the attacks).
I was in my room that Friday night talking to my mom via Skype when she told me there was a news anchor in Paris near the Eiffel Tower, and apparently a major event had just happened there. She asked me if I knew. I made a search online and found lots of articles with limited information. That night I tuned in the night for hours, reading written articles as well as the English broadcast of France 24. They interviewed survivors and updated the situation, and they translated François Hollande’s speech into English. At some point, they focused on tweets by politicians (American politicians like Newt Gingrich) and stopped covering the events, so I tuned out.
Social media was used as a tool for people to connect during these events. Facebook allowed people to confirm they were alright. The Twitter hashtag #PorteOuverte left people stranded on the streets know they could shelter inside the person’s home. Instagram was used to ask and confirm where a missing person was. Perhaps the most touching part was when people at Le Bataclan used Facebook statuses to beg the police to come since they were being held as hostages. It is impossible to imagine what the people there and in Paris felt — anxiety, fear, sadness, confusion. I was feeling that too, from my room in Lille. It is hard to cope with situations like these, attacks on innocent lives, on peace, on the values of freedom and justice.
Lots of exchange students here at Lille visit Paris every weekend, and I could only imagine if any of us happened to be there. A classmate told me she was in fact planning a trip to Paris that day, but she felt tired and decided to stay. Seeing the pain in people’s faces, the blood in the sidewalks, the military men, the president making a speech trying his best to reassure the people…is just really hard to witness these events even from another city.
That weekend, I heard there was a memorial in Lille that turned into a protest. The following Monday at school, there was increased security and many students didn’t attend class. Besides my parents, I didn’t talk about this with anyone. On Tuesday, during my Women’s Literature class, our professor gave us an opportunity to discuss the events. I think it’s healthy to just talk about it rather than pretend it didn’t happen. The professor asked if we could explain what were the motivations behind the attacks. We talked about how ISIL recruits young people at a disadvantaged position and uses them for their own gain. It is important, she said, not to blame these events on religion or ethnicity.
I am concerned Islamophobia could rise after these events. The anti-refugee sentiment also seemed to gain some traction, especially in the US. In France, the president said France would still receive as many Middle East refugees as possible. The connection was made after it was reported one of the attackers entered Europe through the island of Leros, in Greece. However, I consider the generalization of Muslims and refugees as guilty of these events as erroneous, when many of these refugees are precisely escaping war in their home countries.
These tragic events showed, however, that the people of France, and the world community in general, stay united and are committed to not letting terror dominate their lives. People online manifested their empathy and their support for the people of Paris, but also the people of Beirut, who were victims of a similar attack just a day before. Knowing that people stand against terror and strive for compassion and freedom in France but also everywhere in the world where the Paris attacks were condemned, is at least some form of relief.