Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
What happened around 10 pm on Friday, November 13, 2015 in one of the most beautiful cities in the world was beyond comprehension for most people, including myself.
Young hearts were having a great time at a concert hall; maybe for the first time in their lives at a performance by an out of town band. They were super excited and happy to be there. Drinks in their hands and friends by their side, they didn’t have a care in the world; full of energy, full of life.
Others were at a fun football match; France against Germany. Each had friends from each other’s country. They were joking around; jumping up to their feet every time other team came close to scoring and then feeling relieved when their heroic goalkeeper saved the day, again. And then GOAL! “Oh la la!! Quelle chance! Mais c’est pas grave. Nous avons beaucoup de temps encore!” It’s alright, we still have time; they consoled each other with a tap on the back. It was the best stressful minutes of their lives. They were having a ball.
A couple was having dinner at a Cambodian restaurant in the trendy neighborhood they always like to go on Friday nights after a glass of relaxation wine at home. They were hard-workers; both needed to free their minds of work-noise. They were adventurous, too. Always willing to try new things; unfamiliar tastes. Tonight was about leaving the office behind and enjoying Cambodian cuisine for the first time in their lives. They were in love and exactly where they wanted to be.
But others had a different idea of a first in a lifetime. For this first time in their lives, eight young men were going to die on November 13, taking 127 lives with them and leaving 300 more in hospital beds. Total impact of such a high scale terrorist attack, of course, goes far beyond the physical loss and leaves a deep dent on souls of every person involved, directly or indirectly; Muslim or Christian; French or not.
I was there when everything happened at a Japanese restaurant 20-minute walking distance from Le Petit Cambodge. I was enjoying sushi when others were choking in their own blood a few seconds away from eternal rest and asking for help from their friends, who were already at peace, forever. What separated me from them was 2 kilometers or 1.2 miles. I was with 4 friends: 3 Americans, all originally from somewhere else in the world, like Cuba or thePhillipines and an English friend.
Distances or nationalities didn’t matter, of course. What mattered last night was liberty, equality and solidarity as the French say. But not in the usual meanings those three words represent. Last night for 2.2 million people in Paris and so many more around the world, liberty meant that NOONE could remain free of terror, massively supported by the exportation of arms from leading nations of the world to terror-fostering ones. That everybody was indeed equal when it came to terror, which didn’t discriminate between white, black, Christian, Muslim, tall, short but just mass terrorized all human beings in the worst way possible. And that against such an attack, everyone indeed quickly weaved unbreakable bonds of fraternity.
By bonds of fraternity, I am not talking about President Obama’s live address supporting France and condemning the attacks. I am talking about the passer-by, who was scared for his life and yet stayed in the scene trying to help those lying on the ground. I am talking about the Filipino friend, who graciously opened his door to me and my friends. We all had met an hour before the attacks.
It is hard to explain how one will react in the midst of terror and yet simultaneously very easy to feel stronger than before. I am not letting last night’s terror, or any other terrorist attack that took place anywhere in the world, recently or long ago, get to me. What me and many other Parisiens are doing tonight is go to a restaurant; enjoy some good food at the company of great friends and NOT LET TERROR GET TO US. I am also not going back to New York, either but staying in Paris for another week, discovering the beautiful city and keeping my dates with Mona Lisa, Hemingway and others, as planned. People of Paris are cautious but not afraid.
Paranoia will not stop terrorism; end of greed will.