It’s the day after the day we wished would never come, and the carnage continues. As I sat down to have my first coffee of the day, I turned on the news, and my fears, once again, became true. There had been a shooting in Chatillion-Montrouge, a suburb in the south of Paris. An extremely quiet, residential area, that I happen to know, as I work there every holiday. It’s an area where a lot of people choose to live to give their children a life which isn’t quite so urban, but within easy access to Paris itself. It’s also an area popular with retirees. It was another shock.
As I walked around Paris today, the mood had changed a little from the resilient, defying vibe of last night. It was a day of mourning, and Paris did mourn. At a quarter to twelve I headed once again to Place de la Republique, this time for a minute’s silence. As I walked up the stairs from the metro, stairs that I’ve danced down with friends, stairs where I celebrated the Paris PRIDE march, stairs that I walked up on my first day in Paris and stairs that are always bustling with people and noise, I was met by a wall of silence. Hundreds of people had gathered in the pouring rain, hand in hand, circling the square. Through the crashing rain, you could hear a single voice, the voice of an American reporter, reminding us of yesterday’s events. I stood in the circle, hand in hand with an older man, and a young teenage girl, hearing the reporter recount the events of the previous day. We stood for around 15 minutes, united and silent until the crowd began to applaud spontaneously. It was all extremely sobering, and each and every one of us on the square, and around Paris I’m sure, felt a deep darkness in our hearts.
Images of the cartoonists who died became the focus of many makeshift memorials around the city today. This attack has wounded the cartooning world in an unimaginable way. Cartoons are in some way the bread and butter of French culture. I spoke to one French woman who said it was as if someone would dare target Hollywood actors in America. I challenge you to find a Frenchman who wasn’t brought up reading Tintin, or Asterix. These cartoons may not have the same political messages as Charlie Hebdo, but they are cartoons. They are a quick way of sharing and getting a message across. They can be extremely powerful.
By now, an extensive search is underway for the two brothers, who remain at large. We are all aware that these men are extremely dangerous, and that they are brutal, cold blooded killers who aren’t afraid of the consequences, and show no remorse whatsoever. It is worrying that these men haven’t yet been apprehended. They manage to stay one step ahead of the police, and that is something that I have discussed with various people throughout the day, something we all wish would change very, very soon. I talked to a taxi driver briefly today, who had just been to the mosque that the two men frequented and prayed at, north of the city. As a French Muslim, he told me that the police urge their community to be in frequent contact, and to report any suspicions that they might have…but nobody suspected a thing. It was as much a shock to their fellow worshipers, as it was to you and me. It’s such a shame that a tiny, extremist minority has become somewhat of a misconceived representation of the religion.
With this attack, we are shocked, we are saddened, but we weren’t surprised. Why has this become, to some extent, a part of our culture? Why do we believe that these atrocities are now inevitable in big cities around the world? It infuriates me that people believe that bloodshed is the answer to anything, when it only adds to a problem that is, in my opinion, too deep-rooted in our society, and must be addressed with a new approach. Terrorism is now a “thing”. It shouldn’t be.
I have experienced such a range of emotions over the past two days. I’ve been sad, and angry, and nervous, and afraid. I’ve been brought to tears. I’ve jumped at the noise of a closing door. But, I’ve been proud to call this city my home.
People may feel scared, but there is a united feeling that we must stay resilient, and resilient we will be. I am still Charlie.