29 November 2015


It's been about two weeks since the Paris attacks so I wanted  to share my thoughts, especially those of an American in France during these past weeks. So many people have asked me what it's been like recently, if I've been okay, what I think... My past two posts have briefly touched on the attacks - it's hard not to - but I wanted to write about them a bit more in depth.

My night on 13 November began extremely normally - after coming home from school I hung out, tired from the long week. My host brother declared my bed mo comfy than his and commandeered it, along with my iPad to watch a movie. Somewhere along the way, my shelf was ripped off the wall and said brother got in big trouble with parents. My little brother and host parents watched a soccer match after dinner. Everything was extremely normal, until it wasn't. 

I emerged from my room just as people in Paris were realizing their city was under attack but hours away in my town of Rennes, people were still a bit more naive. My little brother had heard the explosions during the soccer match but like many others he dismissed it as fireworks. A few minutes after the end of the match, the end of the movie, my whole family watched with wide eyes as news casters began trying to figure out what was happening. Not even they knew what was up yet. 

Immediately,sent my parents text messages telling them I was safe. They hadn't yet heard that something was wrong, but my French friends had. My phone buzzed constantly as the SYA class of 2016 group chat tried to make sure everyone was safe. Independent travel had begun and Paris was a popular choice that weekend - I think there were six different groups of my classmates in the city during the attacks.

Not all of my classmates responded quickly and immediately horrible fears came to mind. I watched as my host family suffered the same anxiety - listing their family and friends in Paris and attempting to contact them. There is a special type of fear reserved for moments like this - knowing something is horribly wrong yet being unable to protect those involved, especially your loved ones. 

In between checking and sending messages, we watched the news. Details, numbers, locations, names, speeches. Like everyone watching, the media tried to figure out what was happening. I watched as the numbers of deaths, attacks went up - the raw numbers were what scared me the most. They're supposedly detached, scientific, easier to digest but I couldn't keep myself from imagining the families, the friends, the tears that each of those deaths represented. 

I was terrified that some one near me would be amongst the victims from the moment that I heard about the attacks until the moment my last classmate responded, until I knew that my host families friends and family were safe. I was lucky. I didn't lose anyone personally. I was exempt from the grief of losing someone close to me and I feel with all my heart for those that did. I can't even begin to imagine the pain they're suffering, I can't comprehend it.

I was so so tired that Friday night, but I stayed up until 3 am anyway. My family didn't sleep either. We watched President Obama's speech with French subtitles, then President Hollande's. We shared tense safe silence on the white couches as the faces on the TV tried to make sense of the events, tried to give us facts. 

I didn't lose anyone personally but that is not to say I didn't feel for the loss of life.. I felt like a hypocrite at first. I didn't lose anyone, so why was I so sad, worried, affected by the events? Now, I realize that my pain came from trying to wrap my head around the attacks The realization that there are people that will indiscriminately kill innocent people is a painful, horrific experience. People have suggested to me that the attacks will be a key memory for me and my generation, and I have no doubt that they're right. There have been horrific things that happened before and they struck me, but the Paris attacks were the first that I thought about, that felt this close to my life. 

My host brothers closest friends left the bar just half an hour before terrorists arrived and began shooting. I had classmates who were just 500m away from other shooters. Even before knowing who was behind the attacks, knowing that there were people who were capable of dreaming up such horrors...that was my pain. I can't understand what would drive a living thinking being to even consider such attacks. 

This all being said, I think the most striking thing I saw in these attacks was not the violence but the power of humanity. Not only the individuals left behind by the murdered, but the entire county, the world...so many people refused to cower in the face of senseless terrorism. The horrors are meant to scare people into ruining their lives and living in fear. I think standing together and continuing life as before is the best way to fight terrorism, and so many people did so after the 13 November attacks. I hope that the unity and strength continues and that the terrorists fail in their mission of ruining even more innocent lives, but I think it's up to us. We can't let them get to us. 

*Thank you so much to everyone who checked in with me after the attacks, it meant so much that you wanted to know that I was safe. To those who lost loved ones - my thoughts are with you. xoxolu


1 comment

  1. Glad you and your host family are all okay! Miss you Lu!!


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