Monday, November 23, 2015

A Sad and Difficult Time in Paris

Candles in memory of the victims

I live a short walk from the Bataclan and have eaten at Le Petit Cambodge. I used to live on rue Bichat. These names that were little known beyond Paris (in some cases, little known beyond the neighborhood) until recently. 

My life of the past decade is a web mapped across the sites of the Feb. 13 terrorist attack in Paris. Before the news hit, I heard the sirens. In the pit of my stomach, I knew something wasn’t right. Then silence, more sirens. When I turned on the news, images from these familiar places a few blocks from my apartment lit the screen. 

I watched the tragedy on the television and heard it on the streets: more sirens, silence, helicopters. A friend called to say he almost went to the Bataclan concert, the site of blasts, gunfire and a hostage situation. Another friend, who lives across the street from one of the attack sites, messaged about the swarm of special forces and security at the foot of his building. 

A war zone. In a period of hours, my calm neighborhood had become a war zone. I think of those who have had shootings in their communities and a lump forms in my throat. The feeling of this tragedy and a public shooting of any kind must be similar: the comfort of the past and a familiar place instantly destroyed. 

The morning after, the streets were empty, sad. We are sad. Native Parisians as well as Americans in Paris like me, who have lived here long enough to make the city our home, a place where we make and collect memories.

This attack is a human tragedy as well as a tragedy for this city known for light—but now what will it be known for? 

The Charlie Hebdo attack in January marked the beginning of this terrible transition. 

Today, there is fear in the air. And a big question mark.

As this attack hit my neighborhood, I had the chance to put my reporter's cap back on with some stories for Quartz.

Click here for my personal essay.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Our thoughts are with you, and with all victims of terrorism.
    We all are saddened by the targeting of innocent civilians, no matter what the excuse may be.
    One may note that while you mention the need the help those less fortunate, and immigrants in particular, the fact of the matter is that religious extremism, political fundamentalism and the ensuing mass murder is led by people who may not be open to dialogue, modernization and integration.
    There are many poor constituencies that DO NOT resort to violence.
    There are many immigrants that practice different religions who work hard to assimilate, overcoming hardships without violence.
    No challenges justify the targeting of civilians, be it in a Russian airplane, hotels in Mali, bus riders in Israel, or bystanders in Nigeria, Iraq and Syria.
    The fact that many of those calling to use brutal force against civilians as means for change are Muslim is a sad fact we cannot ignore. The peaceful Muslim majority and its leaders must become more active. Making change happen is important, but there is no justification for fanatic violence, no statistics that can make a culture become open to Democracy and pluralism, no philosophical talk that can change the minds of those teaching and practicing hate.
    EJ, NYC