Sunday, November 15, 2015

Paris Mourns

Our Saturday was quiet. Sunday was different.

Bullet holes. Bullet holes in the windows. Bullet holes in the windows, with flowers in them. Flowers on the sidewalks, flowers and candles.

Outside Le Carillion Restaurant
Today Paula and I walked down to the cafes that were attacked Friday night. It was a pleasant walk, about a mile from our apartment along the Canal St. Martin. As we neared the area, attentive police filled each street leading to the cafés. A crowd surrounded each café, people standing silently or weeping quietly. People occasionally stooped to add a note, or more flowers, or light a candle. Paula and I hugged each other tightly.

After a bit we walked down the block, and came upon another site. Bullet holes in walls. Flowers and candles. Observers standing silent, respectful. We saw another café, and a laundromat, that had been shot up.

These were places where people died 36 hours ago sitting at tables with friends doing what people here do – drinking wine, eating, laughing, enjoying the joie de vie

We moved on to the Place de la Republique, a few more blocks away. Again, many people spread about the large square, and crowded around the massive 1893 monument representing the central beliefs of the French republic - la Liberté, l'Égalité, et la Fraternité (liberty, equality, brotherhood).

The scene here was as passionate as at the shooting sites, but the focus was very different. It was not memorializing those killed, nor morning the dead. It was rather a massive statement of unity and defiance. Again, candles, flowers, and notes of all kinds declaring support and alliance with the people of Paris. “Je suis Paris!” (I am Paris) was common.

Many signs were openly defiant of the attacks: “Without knowing it, without wanting it, you have united us” (“Sans le savoir, sans le vouloir, vous nous avez UNIS!”)

In the evening we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral for a memorial service. We wandered around not sure where to line up – there were many options and as luck (or fortune) would have it we picked the right crowd to follow and made it inside. It was actually the Sunday evening service held each week, but tonight dedicated to the victims of the attacks. The mood was somber and reflective again, with beautiful but intense organ and choral music – it is clear Paris is mourning her dead but defending her values.

While the setting was majestic and somber, with all the magnificence the Church brings to a thousand-year old cathedral, I missed the up front, personal, and truly emotional content of the spontaneous street displays.

As we came out we were interviewed by a British news station! I hope we’re not on TV.

We rode the Metro back home and celebrated our own joie de vie. It’s great to be alive! (And in Paris!)

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