Sunday, November 15, 2015

Paris Is Crying

Living out of harm's way in the south suburbs of Paris, I was spared by Friday night's terrorist attack in the eastern part of the city. Spared but deeply saddened.

The country has long been the target of terrorism. In December 1994, nine months after we arrived to live in Paris, seven were killed in the hijacking of Air France Flight 8969 by members of the Armed Islamic Group.

In July 1995, members of the same group killed eight people in the underground bombings of the Metro and RER commuter train in the heart of Paris at St. Michel. As a journalist freelancing for USA Today, I ventured down into the empty caverns of the subway to report on the story. The odor of destruction still haunts me.
By French graphic artist Jean Jullien, Nov. 14, 2015

Friday's attack was the deadliest ever, with more than 150 killed and counting. Suicide bombers did their dirty work on innocent Parisians and visitors out on a lovely November evening to hear music or have a meal together.

Yesterday, I was overcome with grief. For those who lost loved ones, the city that has been deeply scarred, and the nation that has for so long been my second home.

At the same time, I was overwhelmed with the kindness of dozens of you who messaged and called with your thoughts and prayers—and so many from my fellow Pittsburghers, yinz are the best! Merci beaucoup! Je vous aime! I am touched and blessed.

I think I worried some people by my silence. I wasn't thinking that anybody would be worried about me! I set my Facebook status as “safe,” and wrote back to everyone to say I was safe--sort of.

Safe is an overstatement. I was not harmed, but don't feel “safe.” I went to church today feeling vulnerable in the second row, and have to admit that I was half-listening for gunfire during the sermon. I quizzed my daughter about what to do in an attack, and she answered correctly (fall to the floor).

Words are failing me, but one thing is resonating. It's the “Paris for Peace” symbol that's gone viral, drawn by the Frenchman Jean Jullien in the hours after the attack. It shares my hope for Paris, for France, and everyone who wants to find a way forward—peacefully.