As the resident explorer in France I thought it fitting to write my next blog on the terrible events of Paris two nights ago and how I experienced them. Laying in bed skyping with my mom my phone blew up with CNN updates and messages from friends and family. I had just been in Paris exactly where the attacks took place but was back “home” and safe in Montpellier.
One by one I heard my host family accumulate in front of the TV downstairs. Patricia’s usual music blasting let me know something was wrong. They were all so quiet except for Patricia’s (my host mother) occasional sigh of “c’est juste un truc de fou” – it’s just crazy. We watched the events unfold and it seemed like there was only more and more bad news each passing hour and more and more deaths. Facebook exploded with hashtags of #prayforpars and #jesuisparis and we all messaged our friends to make sure everyone was safe. Many of my friends studying in Montpellier were in fact visiting Paris and had to find a safe place to spend the night until they could find a train out of the city.
The associates of my program called a meeting last night to our office. It was a strange atmosphere among the students. We shared a unique point of view as Americans living in France. While some students had a very emotional reaction to the attacks, most of us understood the deep sadness of the French people and solidarity that the attacks had created. In La Place de la Comédie, the city center, people gathered to show their support for one another, for Paris, and for their country. Walking home that night, every house I passed had a candle lit in the window.
Although not entirely typical of me to find the positive in the situation, everyone in France has come together over the terror and hate of Friday night. As my favorite associate at the office replied: It’s okay to be scared, I was terrified last night, but I am not going to stop drinking a glass of wine on the terrace, or going to the movies, or getting a coffee with my friends. That would mean the terrorists won. You have to keep living, that’s the best way you can show your respect to those who died. Just keep living!