Today France, Europe and the world has woken up to understand the true horror of last night’s events. In the coming months we will come to understand what fully happened, and those who survived, and the families of those who did not will try and piece their lives back together.
I’ve felt a sense of numbness today, whilst I go about my job in a department store. The stream of photos, videos and accounts from the terrorist attacks have had a profoundly saddening effect upon me.
10 years ago, Britain was struck by the 7th of July London bombings. During the previous days, my dad had been in London due to his job, returning home the day before the bombs went off. He travelled on one of the tube lines upon which a bomb was detonated. I was only a teenager at the time, yet I have always carried this near-miss with me. It still makes me tense up to this day to think of what the worst case scenario could have been.
I am lucky enough that this tiny piece of my life is the closest I personally have ever come to experiencing the life-shattering aftermath of a terrorist attack.
What I now feel is grief. Grief for the people who will never see their loved ones again, for people who will be physically and emotionally scarred, grief for those halfway across the world for whom events like this may be a daily occurrence.
Yet, I have also witnessed the beauty of humanity unfold over the past 24 hours. People of Paris opening their homes to strangers, offering them sanctuary as they fled through the streets of Paris. To the fans of music and sport across the world who have offered their sympathy to the victims. To those I know, and to those I don’t on social media who are defending muslims, refugees and others who racists and bigots would wrongly blame for last night’s events.
Earlier today, I was moved to tears watching a video from the French Assemblée Nationale. Standing in silence, the members spontaneously broke into The Marseillaise. A beautiful moment of sorrow, of patriotism, of grief. It reminded me of the famous scene from ‘Casablanca’, where the French, under the heel of Nazi Germany, unite as one to collectively remember who they are, and what they stand for. I feel that we saw that today. That even though these events will terrorise us, they will kill innocents, and seek to divide – they will fail.
Remember those who died. Strive to be kind, to love, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. If we do this, if we do not change the good people that we are, we will never be beaten.
Vive Paris. Vive la France.