It 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.
“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.
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.
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.