When the attacks in Paris began on the evening of Friday, November 13, 2015, I am sorry to admit that I was taking selfies with some friends in front of the Eiffel Tower, mesmerized by its dazzling lights. My friends who are also studying abroad in Europe this semester were in town visiting for the weekend and I was taking them sightseeing. Along with all of the other tourists taking pictures by the Eiffel Tower on Friday evening, we were completely oblivious to what terrible events were unfolding across town in the tenth and eleventh arrondissements.
We decided to call it a night relatively early – around 10:30 – and head home. Around half an hour later, when we entered my apartment and our phones reconnected to the internet, one friend’s phone immediately started buzzing nonstop with text notifications.
“Oh my God,” she said, “There’s a terrorist attack happening in Paris right now.”
I was floored. What? A terrorist attack in Paris? I pulled up the news app on my phone and read the first article that I saw. The information that was circulating at that time varied quite a bit depending on the sources, but one thing was clear: Paris was under attack. By that point, there were three reported explosions in the Stade de France, a hostage situation at a theatre in the eleventh, a shooting at a Cambodian restaurant in the tenth, and speculation of drive-by shootings in other areas. The French president, François Hollande, soon declared a state of emergency and closed the country’s borders.
Not long after learning the situation and updating my parents and my sister, my phone rang. It was my roommate, who was going to her parents’ house for the weekend. I couldn’t hear anything the first time she called, but when she called a second time, she asked me where we were and made sure that we knew what was happening. I later found out that she had called me from Châtelet-Les Halles, where a shooting occurred only half an hour later. Thankfully, my roommate was not harmed, nor were any of my other friends in Paris. I was able to reassure everyone who reached out to me that I was safe and I cannot count my blessings enough that I was so lucky.
However, the devastating reality is that hundreds and thousands of people are unable to say the same for their own family members and loved ones. As of November 15, there are a total of 132 deaths, most of them from the hostage situation at the Bataclan theatre, where the American band Eagles of Death was playing a show. I know that the fear, shock, and helplessness that I felt hearing the news of terrorist attacks in the city that I live in is nothing compared to the horrors that those in the Stade de France, le Petit Cambodge, the Bataclan, the shopping centre at Châtelet-Les Halles, and at numerous street corners in the tenth and eleventh arrondissements witnessed and experienced. There are absolutely no words to describe this tragedy.
In the aftermath, a small trace of apprehension seems to haunt the streets of Paris. After all, terrorism is, by definition, the act of causing widespread terror and panic. However, the Parisians are strong and will not allow these events to tear them down. Already, Paris has bravely begun to pick itself back up and the French people have united in solidarity. On the night of the attacks, taxi drivers turned off their meters and drove people to safety for free, while Parisians opened their homes to those searching for shelter by using the hashtag #PorteOuverte on social media. The next night, the lights of the Eiffel Tower that my friends and I were so awed by on Friday night were shut off as a way of commemorating the victims of the attacks. Memorials have been set up throughout the city, at the sites of the attacks, and people are lining up to donate blood wherever they can. Though France is grieving, she is grieving with the support of millions.
Nevertheless, as a final note, it mustn’t be forgotten that Paris was not the only city that came under attack this week. Brutal bombings in Beirut, Lebanon on Thursday, November 12th left at least 41 casualties and injured at least 200 others. In Baghdad, Iraq, where bombings have become uncommon occurrences, 26 people lost their lives in a roadside bombing on Friday. Sadly and extremely unjustly, these atrocious events seem to have been forgotten in the wake of the events in Paris. If you’re keeping Paris in your thoughts, please include Beirut and Baghdad as well.
Images obtained from: