A Week Later: Sorrow and Sparkle

Street art, angel on its kneesIt has been exactly one week since 12 journalists, cartoonists, and police were killed in an attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The 2 following days brought more violence, ending in a dramatic dual hostage situation and 5 more people dead.

There have been countless articles, op-eds, and analysis of this wave of terror. I don’t have much to offer in the way of that. I have listened to news non-stop, read many different perspectives, mourned, thought. I am still mourning. I am still thinking.

Here I simply share some photos from the historic march on Sunday following these events. 3.7 million people are said to have assembled across France, 1.5 million in the streets of Paris alone. It was the largest march in France’s history.

crowd at the marche republicaine

“Je suis Charlie” has been the overriding rallying cry to emerge. Another has been “not afraid.” I admire the calm and the defiance displayed by the French. I have never felt so proud to live here. I love that many held up pens in the air. Our words, our drawings, our free expression – these are the mightiest weapons.pencils in the hair, marche republicaine

Still, that refrain. Not afraid. The fact is, I was afraid. I am. But I believe it’s the response to fear that matters.

One of my guiding mottos is a quote by artist Georgia O’Keeffe: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”

She’s not referring to the fear of physical danger, of course. For me, the quote encapsulates the will to push through fear to truly live. It explains a lot of what I’ve done: moving to a new country, trying new activities, staying open to love again after heartbreak.

Love is stronger than hate

Love is stronger than hate

I was afraid last week. But I also went to my dance class and danced. I attended a friend’s art exhibition. I took to the streets. We must continue to live.



Big questions about France and her future remain. We suffer shock, horror, grief. But also unity and hope. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and my mind has been doing intellectual acrobatics trying to process. Trying to understand.

Last night I attended a talk at the American Library of Paris. The brilliant Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer for The Atlantic, was speaking. On my way, I stopped in my tracks. A side street offered the most marvelous view of the Eiffel Tower, which just at that moment was sparkling. The joyous light show happens only for a short time at the stroke of each hour.

Even through grim days, this is the view from here. The city still sparkles.

May light drive out the dark.

Liberté. Solidarité.


9 Responses to “A Week Later: Sorrow and Sparkle”

  1. 1 Pam January 14, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you very much for this reflection. I find it to hold a lot of wisdom.


  2. 3 buffyschilling January 14, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Good morning,

    As I have said before, I only watch the news when they have it on at work . But I will say, seeing Paris on there made me proud of the French. I have Defended them many times to people who think they roll over and let things happen to them. They don’t know about the Resistance during WWll. The other day showed outwardly that they don’t take things lying down. Terrorism is something we may always have to fight, but at least people are hoining together against it. I am glad you kept doing the things you love. Keep it up and stay safe out there. You obviously see the beauty among the bad.
    Take care,


    • 4 paris (im)perfect March 1, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Buffy. Sorry for the very long lag time in responding. It’s been a time of reflection since the rocky start of the year, but I’m happy to report I am still very much doing what I love and Paris continues on.


      • 5 buffyschilling March 2, 2015 at 2:01 am

        It is a resilient city, just like I am sure you are. I hope Spring will be there soon, and the rest of the year is far better than the beginning.


  3. 6 Nina Lorch January 14, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Dear Sion,
    Thank you so much for your words and photographs. I realized that I had been holding my breath, in a way, waiting for your reflections on this horrifying event to add another dimension to my own. I have been in tears a lot during the past week, some shed in rage and sorrow, but others in wonder and joy at the amazing solidarity of people around the world in reaction to what happened in your adopted city. Andy and I were talking about how moved we were on our visit to a tiny little museum in Forges-les-Eaux, Normandy: Musee de la Resistance and de la Deportation, that so signified to us the strong desire for freedom at another dark time. So yes, Liberté. Solidarité!



    • 7 paris (im)perfect March 1, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      Hi Nina,

      Thanks so much for you kind words. As I said above, there’s been a long lag time between my responding and writing more about events that started the year; there was so much to process. I am happy to report lots of discussion here, and a city, a country grappling with complicated issues. I never had experienced such a feeling of solidarite before, either.


  1. 1 Charlie Hebdo: Understanding the Magazine in Context – Flavorwire Trackback on January 14, 2015 at 10:01 pm
  2. 2 Second Chances | paris (im)perfect Trackback on March 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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