My apartment off Rue Oberkampf is four blocks away from Le Bataclan, a popular music venue where, about two weeks ago, 89 people were killed.
It seems these days as if everyone in the city has some kind of connection to what happened on the 13th – in the days after we all were exchanging stories, such as “my apartment is in that arrondissement,” “I heard sirens wailing for most of the night” or “a classmate of mine was in the Bataclan”.
It’s true. That classmate was in the Bataclan that night – thankfully she survived.
I am so blessed to have not been in Paris that weekend. I was on school holiday with a friend when suddenly, on a Friday night out in Prague, we began to receive tons of Facebook messages from friends and family asking where we were and if we were safe.
A friend of ours had told us earlier there was some kind of shooting in Paris, but it sounded minor – still shocking of course, since weapons such as guns are not readily available to the public in France. But we had thought it was only a handful of people involved, and we were desensitized from our experiences in our home country, the United States, where shootings happen almost every day.
Of course, as we spent the rest of that night constantly refreshing CNN and checking up on other friends living in Paris, we quickly learned this was a grave situation unfolding in multiple locations around our beloved city.
Almost no one rode on the Metro that weekend, and even during the following week, you could tell the rush-hour crowd was much thinner than usual. People were avoiding areas that could easily be targeted – train stations, tourist locations, etc. The military could be seen patrolling the streets and heavily congested areas – they are still here about two weeks later.
In the days following, Paris was changed. The fear and tension was palpable – any loud noise, any quick movement, any suspicious person or item would set the people running.
A friend told me how she was standing in the Metro station one morning when all the people on the platform started to run for the exits. There was some kind of loud noise, and suddenly the metro authorities had come on the loudspeaker, telling everyone to exit immediately. It turned out a light bulb had exploded.
As time went on, us Parisiens regained our courage and joie de vivre (joy of living). Sure, there was the possibility of a follow-up attack. I guess you could say there still is. But by not going out or molding our lives around this fear, we were giving in to what the attackers wanted.
Soon it became an act of defiance – get as many people as possible out into the city, on the streets and in the restaurants, to prove to these men that we were not going to live in fear.
I wasn’t really scared in the days following, and I’m not really scared now. I think it’s because I’ve witnessed this before – in my home community of Newtown, Connecticut. But I also think it’s because over the past four months, I’ve become a part of this French culture, where we stand up for what we believe in and don’t let others dictate our lives.
And, as community, we’ve made our decision: we aren’t going to let this change Paris.
Article and photos courtesy Sarah Potter.