Today I retraced the steps of a walk I took last night in Paris. Friday, November 13th, at 9:30 pm, a series of violent attacks struck this city, the details of which you know better than I do because I didn’t see it from the other side of a t.v. screen. Instead, I was there.
Panicked communication with friends and family outside of Paris has shown me that what you are consuming in the news is a distortion of reality, not because it isn’t true, but because it doesn’t tell the whole story.
At 9:40 pm I was walking less than three blocks away from the Bataclan concert hall where at least 80 people were killed, and more were taken hostage. I entered the scene well before the severity of the situation was understood. A rattled police officer asked me to change my course and I did, skirting around police tape and dodging the ambulances that screamed through the streets. In that moment I felt nothing more than inconvenience. The looks and actions of a woman pushing a baby carriage and teenagers playing in the streets conveyed a similar sentiment, annoyance at the disruption to their plans- nothing more.
This afternoon I went into the city after a night sequestered away to find it much like the one I’d seen so many days previous. Beggars on the streets still held their hands aloft in the hope of generosity, street hawkers still pushed cell phones and watches into the paths of pedestrians. There was a difference in the air though, this city in all its vibrance felt subdued like a bird cage covered in a thin blanket.
For those of you at home viewing the same horrific images over and over, you need to know that Paris perseveres. People walk in the streets holding hands. Small cups of coffee are slid across bars and dogs stomp the streets as they do everyday.
It sounds callous to say, but life goes on. Unlike what you see, the city is not suspended in those terrible hours of its recent history. I’ve seen people laugh and haggle for groceries. The streets are not crowded with terrorists and police. They are filled with people living a Saturday afternoon. You may not see these images or hear this from anyone but me because tragedy is high commodity in the news. Last night a small blurb on my blog brought me five times my record daily readership. Imagine what it brings Fox news.
So I needed to share with you a full picture, not the scary details of last night rehashed, just more of the truth. When friends ask me if I’m ok, I want to scream yes because I am not in the hell you think I’m in. I’m in Paris, the city of light.