To say it's been cold since my arrival in Paris two days ago is an understatement. The streets are still glittering with leftover Christmas decorations and Parisian shops and restaurants full of locals and tourist alike just trying to warm-up a bit with a cup of hot coffee. I have always dream about the day I arrived in Paris. I envisioned the classic imagery: visiting the Eiffel Tower, Seeing the Lourve, and walking the streets with swirls of romantic undertones at every corner. While Paris is the place that you will ALWAYS be able to do that, this trip has shown me much more than a city that's busting with history. This city has also shown me it's resiliency.
I haven't been able to sleep well since my arrival. A combination of jetlag and concern has kept me from getting a little more than 5 hours of rest each night. So, I did what I normally do when I can't seem to rest. I decided to walk the streets of Paris well before anything had opened. The streets were eerie with silence. It walked for almost 10 minutes from Paris' city-center before I even saw a car pass me by. Each corner held not only a remarkable piece of history and architecture, but each corner was also filled with signs reading "Je Suis Charlie".
If you are unfamiliar with what has been going on in France, know that there have been several separate incidences of what we in America call "terrorism". The first was an attack on a satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the second action was the killing of a female police officer in the streets. Then a small bomb exploded at a kebab restaurant near a mosque near the southern city of Lyon. A heartbreaking time for France, but not the end to the attacks.
Within hours of each other yesterday, the two brothers thought to be responsible for the killing of 12 at Charlie Hebdo were shot while leaving a warehouse in the north of Paris. Another suspect then took hostages at a Kosher Deli in eastern Paris, wanting to go out as a maryter, killed four before being killed himself. Six others, including two police officers where injured. 15 other hostages were rescued unharmed. 17 brothers, mothers, sisters, friends, fathers, and neighbors lost their lives.
These people where not numbers, and sadly enough they're not the only ones who are suffering at the hand of extremist. It happens daily all over the world, and until it hits us close to our comfort zone, we tend to turn the other cheek and simple go about our lives.
I continued to walk until I reached 10 Rue Nicolas Appert. The location of Charlie Hebdo. It was still swarming with live trucks and reporters covering the story for the early morning broadcast. Flowers, candles, cartoons, and little notes covered the sidewalk while journalist, much like myself, try and piece together what this all means.
I took a taxi back. It had wandered two miles from my hotel on the streets of Paris before the sun could rise. I kept thinking. "Je Suis Charlie"... "I am Charlie"...
I do believe these attacks will have a profound impact on many aspects of freedom. Surprisingly, the most encouraging impact is how it has already affected the people of France. It has made them stronger. "Je Suis Charlie" is everywhere because each person I spoke to felt empowered to change the notion that trepidation will cause the masses to mute.
As individuals, we are much greater than anything fear inspires. You do not have to like the satyrical drawings or articles of Charlie Hebdo to want to stand with the idea that freedom of speech and expression is the most valuable thing in the world. I am Charlie because despite terror at any level, I will remain vocal.
The pen is mightier than the sword because it inspires. At this time in Frances' greatest hour of need, let us be inspired to not put our pens down and rise above.