Day 9: Paris Prevails
Today was a national day of mourning in France. Two weeks ago, a horrifying thing happened in Paris. Earlier that Friday afternoon, I received bad news that really shook me, so I was in a state of shock. My friend joined me and we ended up at a café that evening, talking out my situation. She supported me and offered me guidance, and I felt lucky and happy to have her in that moment.
We moved to another table further inside the café because I was cold, and we settled in once again in a cozy nook. My meal had come and gone and we were talking over drinks when her phone rang. It was her brother. But the reception in that part of the café was poor so she couldn’t hear him. She got up to step outside and call him back, while telling me she thought there may be something wrong from the tone of his voice.
Some minutes later, she walked back into the café and as she approached me, said, in French, there was a shooting in Paris. I didn’t understand the French word she used for “shooting.” I said something to indicate I didn’t understand and then she said in English there were people shooting guns in the city. “In Paris? In the city?” “Yes!” I was confused and alarmed. She said, “let’s get out of here.”
We settled up the bill, gathered our things and started walking out. I remember noticing how the café had completely filled up. People were drinking, talking, enjoying a typical Friday evening, and I thought “but everything looks normal here. Does anyone know…?”
My friend and I watched only a few minutes of the news upon arrival at her place. Enough to see it was a serious situation. Only when I got into my Uber to go home at 3 AM did I start to hear how grave it was when my driver told me how many were reported killed. I turned on my TV (something I never do, as I don’t watch TV) as soon as I got home and when I saw what had happened, I felt my heart crushed and I burst into tears.
The whole weekend was very dark and heavy. The somber energy was palpable. But, incredibly, when I went out the Saturday after, expecting hardly anybody to be out, I saw that people were out. They were walking, talking, hugging, grocery shopping, sitting at cafés, continuing their lives. I was moved and encouraged. And I thought, wow, people are continuing to do what they always do. Not even something so horrible can take the life out of this city and its people. And it really is indescribable to see couples kissing warmly in the street, friends smiling together over a glass of wine after the violence and hate that shocked our city.
That is the Paris I know. The Paris of people in love, of people sharing good moments together, of people enjoying life, good wine, good food, and good company. Nothing can kill that joy of life and pleasure in living that so defines Paris.
From a New York Times article about the day of mourning and memorial held today at Les Invalides, France’s president Mr. Hollande said the terrorists “have a cult of death. But we have a love of life.”
He’s right. Paris prevails. Her people won’t stay home hiding in fear because that’s not what it means to live in a free country. I feel proud to call Paris my home, and grateful for everything she’s taught me about living and le joie de vivre. I love this city deeply. After these two weeks, I’m coming back to my joy of life again, and I know Paris always comes back to her joy.
Pour Paris, la ville de mon cœur et l’âme. ❤