Je Suis Paris

Rue du Général Camou

In August, to honor the 9th anniversary of my dad’s death, I booked a flight to Paris for just after Thanksgiving, to give me something to look forward to, a bright spot on an otherwise bleak day. To buoy me the way Paris always does, in its ineluctable magnetism. It would be my second trip this year, coming just six months after a quick stop in May, and though it might seem excessive to some, to me, Paris has long felt as necessary as breathing. It’s a required part of my life.

I’ve had a suitcase packed since the first day in November. I’ve had an itinerary drafted for each day I’m there for weeks; tentatively, of course, and allowing for ample time to wander and stop in a café or deviate from the plan. I’ve made sure to pack my empty Mariage Frères tea tins to refill at the boutique. A new umbrella for the inevitable winter rain. Gloves. An extra memory card for my camera. Everything I thought I’d need.

And then Friday happened. Attends, this isn’t about me. I wasn’t there, I don’t live there (yet), and despite my best efforts to the contrary, I’m not actually French. My platitudes will seem empty and weak, but I need to voice them anyway, because, as my friend Lyndsey told me early Saturday morning –after I’d woken up and had felt, for those first thirty seconds of confused consciousness, that everything had been a nightmare– “You are in love with Paris. And you need to stand by it.” I am in love with Paris, and I need to stand by it. I suppose, then, that I could be forgiven, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy Friday night, for briefly considering not going at the end of the month. For canceling my flight, eating the cost of everything, in the name of panic. Love allows for momentary lapses in faith and judgement, I hope. Because as I watched the coverage deep into the evening, crying and stricken with a sense of helplessness and fear, I thought, “Of course I can’t go now.” Simultaneously, I knew, “Of course I must.”

In January, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, “Paris will recover, has shown it is capable of overcoming the darkness in the days since the attack. For a city so filled with light, how could it not?” It seemed a given, and the city and its inhabitants banded together in the most beautiful show off strength and solidarity. And when I was there in May, the city was back to normal, or whatever the new normal was. It was easy to feel safe then. But in 12 days, when I go back, I don’t think I’ll have the same (false?) sense of security.

There’s been so much said in the endless media coverage the last few days that the targets were ‘random’ and rather than being specific artists at a satirical newspaper, it was everday people out on a Friday night after a long work week. The attacks on Friday were not random. The target on Friday wasn’t a specific person for exercising their freedom of speech, but rather an entire way of life. But that doesn’t make it any less deliberate than what happened in January. The targets were centralized around one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Paris, where people of all races and ethnicities live and work. They were places people could mix freely, drink alcohol, watch an international sporting event, listen to American music, dance in public, laugh, kiss, smoke, be outside without fear, in clothing they chose. The very things the terrorists abhor. The attacks were not random, the attackers just didn’t care about first and last names this time.

Does that mean everyone changes their lives in response to this horror? It could happen here tomorrow, and I wouldn’t consider staying indoors in Philadelphia for the rest of my life. So of course I’m going to Paris. I’m going to Paris in 12 days, and I’m going again in March. I’ll probably try to go again at the end of next year, because I can’t –and won’t– stay away. There’s something to be said about “not letting the terrorists win,” that oft repeated line we hear whenever something like this happens.

I wonder what sort of mood I’ll find in Paris this time. It’s changed the entire atmosphere of my trip, tinged it with a surreal, nervous edge. But I don’t get to complain, because I’m alive, and everyone I know in Paris is alive and safe, too. I’m going back, because I am in love with Paris.

8 thoughts on “Je Suis Paris

  1. of course we won’t stay at home, but it is different than last time. very different. maybe we didn’t admit this to ourselves but I think we felt safe because we didn’t consider ourselves targets. we are no politicians or journalists or activists. that’s changed. the city will recover. life goes on and all that but something changed irrevocably. it feels very different. less defiance, more fear, more of an effort. I’m glad you are coming nonetheless. xoxo

  2. I still can’t put my thoughts on the whole situation into words.’Terrible’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’m just happy that any family and friends I have in Paris are safe, and it’s inspiring to watch the country pull together after such an attack. I try to find inspiration wherever I can, even in the depths of tragedy. Not to be a “glass half full” kinda gal, but it’s increasingly difficult to get through anything without looking for the bright side.

  3. Erin, I am glad you have decided to go. This tragic event must have shaken you to the core. But, you are doing the right thing. This time you will, no doubt, have a different experience but it will never change your love for Paris.

  4. Go, I just got back. You know all the reasons to go. And Paris, the French are tough, they have been though far worst.. It’s seems that the future will be difficult. Whatever comes ahead think how much better it is then to be alive in now then 1914 or 1939. Remember them.

  5. I’m also really glad that you’re going back there because it means so much to you. We’ve talked about homecoming and god forbid anyone else be able to take that feeling away from you. I’m thinking of you, all our blogosphere friends, and the beautiful beautiful city that I want to get to know so much better and the people who live there

  6. Have you ever taken any pictures in the passages? . Really charming . I stayed in a little Hotel in the Jassage Jouffroy. It is worth a visit. I think there are 4 all together.

  7. Je suis Paris aussi ! Je suis d’accord avec toi, il ne faut pas rester cloitré à la maison, ils veulent ça justement! Nous faire peur et qu’on vive avec le peur! Je pense qu’il faut continué à aimé Paris ! Bon chance mon amie ! xoxo

  8. Of course you´ll go! You know, at my age this isn´t the first time… I have been there several times when terrorist attacks had just happened, when bombs had just exploded in the metro etc. I once stayed at an hotel which was the headquarter of the gendarmes = 50 heavily armed policemen at the breakfast -tables around us… But, you can have an accident in your bathroom at home too. Fear mustn´t stop you, go to Paris, love the city as always and enjoy! I´ll go there in May.

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