The terrorist attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis on November 13 killed 130 people and left hundreds more wounded. The immediate target was joie de vivre in the City of Light: the pleasure of sharing a drink or a meal with friends, of listening to music, of strolling down the street, of kissing on the sidewalk, of men and women mingling and dressing freely, of gathering comfortably with strangers, of being young in years or young at heart, of openly celebrating life.
Those are all things that you, the visitor and the return traveler, look forward to when you imagine (re)visiting Paris.
So you naturally pause when thinking of coming to Paris today.
You naturally wonder: Will I feel safe? Will I be safe? Do I want to walk around in fear? Is it worth the risk?
Just five days after the attacks, it would be a lie to say that those of us who live in Paris don’t also asked ourselves the same questions. We are not defiant or brave, and you will not be if you come.
Yes, we want to feel “normal” again. Yes, we want to—we need to—go about our lives without fear. We have personal and work obligations, we have children to take care of, friends we want to see, activities we enjoy, shopping to do, errands to run. We want to feel the normalcy of our lives as we felt on it early Friday evening as the weekend arrived.
In a way, we already have it. We are out and about. Paris is open for business.
But normalcy does not mean that we are nonchalant about the death and destruction that has struck and that wishes to strike again. We continue to pause in front of memorials, to think about those who were kills, to comfort those who were wounded or more directly affected than us, to tell each other first-, second- and third-hand stories.
The question of safety is one we all ask ourselves. Yet our lives are rooted here. Whether those roots are one year or 20 years or generations old, roots of family or work or friends or of unwillingness to move, few of us will flee today, as few fled after the attacks 10 months ago.
But you, the visitor and the return traveler, don’t have those roots. You may be contemplating your first visit to Paris. Or you may profess a love for Paris; you may consider yourself a Parisian at heart; you may consider Paris your second home. Yet Paris is not your home. And for those of us who live here to say, “Yes, everything’s fine, you should come,” would be to confuse our roots with your travels, our daily lives with your vacation.
You are right to question a visit so soon after the events of Nov. 13. You are right to reconsider your plans. You are right to be concerned about the threat of more violence. Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise. Go right ahead and imagine your fear.
And then remember that what you feel about Paris from afar is not what you will feel about Paris when you are here.
Because once here you will join with those of us who have roots, whether shallow or deep, in life in Paris. You may then be afraid sometimes as we are. You might then tear up sometimes as we do. You may then wonder if you would feel safer in this seat or that, in this restaurant or that, walking down this street or that. You will wonder if you should be here at all.
But here you will be. And in being here you will know the pleasure and beauty of discovering and rediscovering Paris. Beyond the landmarks, beyond the treasure-trove of museums, you will know all those things that the enemies of life in Paris abhor: the pleasure of sharing a drink or a meal with friends, of listening to music, of strolling down the street, of kissing on the sidewalk, of men and women mingling freely, of gathering comfortably with strangers, of being young in years or young at heart, of openly celebrating life. You will know pleasure and discovery and perhaps love. You will allow them, as we do, to brighten the darkness that is fear. You will wish you could stay long. You will want to return.
Gary Lee Kraut
Editor, France Revisited
November 18, 2015