All friends have been accounted for. All family members directly or indirectly alerted that we’re okay. All posts on various social media channels shared in a timely manner. There’s not much left to do.
“Babes, you’re right in the middle of it!” a friend messaged me last night. D’s gym is closed. We wanted to go downstairs and grab a drink at our favorite bar but they closed down early. We’ve been holed up at home for most of the day, aside from a major grocery run. I was surprised at the time to see how many people were out and about. It’s nice to see our neighbors not letting fear get in the way of leading their lives.
After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the prevailing feeling was a lot closer to fear. What if they came back? What if the magazine offices were just the beginning? When the hostage crisis in the kosher grocery store developed in the eastern part of the city that Friday, my host mom warned me to stay away from areas with lots of people. Instead of going out, I spent the night in my apartment alone. It’s nice to have someone with me this time.
Honestly, if I didn’t have D, I would probably be a lot more frightened. The second deadliest attack last night was at a restaurant called La Belle Equipe, a mere six minute walk from our apartment. I pass it every time I go into the office. Three metro stops up from us is the Bataclan. I can’t fathom the horrors the people involved in each of these went through. One of D’s friends was supposed to be at that concert. She may not have made it out alive had she gone. Not everyone’s friends were so lucky; several people I know had friends who were victims, and my heart breaks for them.
This time, the feeling seems to be one of sadness more than anything else. The attacks hit the heart of the city- not a satirical magazine who publishes offensive things, but places we’d all normally go on a Friday night. A restaurant for dinner. Drinks on a terrasse. A rock concert. A soccer game. This wasn’t a targeted political statement, this was meant to kill as many civilians as possible. This was meant to strike fear in our hearts.
As someone experiencing the aftereffects of the Paris attacks, I can’t even imagine what the people of Beirut on Thursday, Kenya in April, and Baghdad too often are going through. This type of violence happens so many other places in the world on an everyday basis and most of us in the West never give it a second thought. Perhaps it’s easier to imagine yourself or your loved ones in Paris than it is to imagine them in Beirut. But all the people killed are someone’s loved one. They deserve just as much recognition from the media. I have Lebanese friends both here and back home who I’m sure would have benefitted from the peace of mind of a Facebook notification marking friends and loved ones as safe. I wonder if terrorist groups think about how they need to attack a Western city every once in awhile just to bring the attention back to them, because apparently bombings and massacres in the Middle East and Africa aren’t worthy of international media coverage.
It’s also infuriating, as an American abroad, to see the horrors that happened just down the street used to further the political agenda of candidates and political figures back in the States. Anyone whining about how this could have been avoided if concealed carry permits were legal in France can go check out the statistics of deaths from gun violence in the United States vs. France, especially over the last few years, and then kindly go fuck off. How dare you capitalize on the pain of the French people for your own agenda. Sometimes I wish we could place these people in front of the victims and families of the victims and watch them try to explain the position they’re so happy to take when hiding behind a keyboard.
We’re laying low for the weekend, as much for our own safety as to assuage the fears of our loved ones who don’t want us out and about. But we’ll only keep it up to the point where it seems unreasonable to assume that we’d be compromising our personal safety by living our lives. If we choose to live like that, the terrorists win. There’s a reason they’re called terrorists- they feed off our fear. I don’t intend to fuel them.
Many people think it’s pointless to change a profile picture or post a supportive Facebook status, but when you’re far from home and family in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, it’s really comforting to go on your news feed and see how many people are standing with your city and the French people. I only wish all terrorist attacks were treated this way, and that the Lebanese flag and others were being offered as an option.
Fluctuat nec mergitur, the motto of Paris; tossed but not sunk. We are battered, but we are not beaten.