‘I want to believe we’re not going to live in a world of fear.’ Dr Louise Hefez. Eyewitness.
Like so many others today, I wait for news from Paris. Not the impersonal horror of announcements in the media, but the email to reassure that amongst the dead and injured of this atrocity are not those I have called friend or family.
I lived, laughed and loved in Paris. I worked and played there. Married. For many years I was known as Madame Verron. My sons are half French, their father a Parisian and I have called friend those of every faith and nation encountered in the City of Light.
Friendship does not discriminate.
Neither do bullets. Nor do bombs.
Nor should we.
There are over two million people living in Paris. It is statistically unlikely that anyone I know has been involved. It came closer with Charlie Hebdo… Even so, I now wait for news… just in case… as do thousands of others across the world.
For some, the news has already arrived.
They weep for those to whom an offhand ‘à bientôt’ or ‘à demain’ will be the last words they uttered and for whom that ‘soon’ or ‘tomorrow’ will now never come. For every one of those lost a whole family and a circle of friends will grieve. For each of those injured, a ripple of pain will spread wide. For those who walked away physically unscathed there will be the scenes lodged in memory, of horror and fear as they watched helpless, that will colour their lives. For all there is the stunned horror of knowing that human beings did this to each other.
For some, there will be the knowledge that such an atrocity was perpetrated by those they love. Not all will agree with such actions and will abhor the crime committed. They too are victims.
That this atrocity should be the act of a human hand rather than accident or natural disaster makes a very real difference to the ever-unanswered questions that will remain. In spite of statements to the contrary, is not an arguable act of war. It is murder.
And why? What purpose does it serve to slaughter civilians? None at all, except to drive a divisive wedge of suspicion, hatred and fear deep into the heart of the human community.
Because one man wreaks horror and hatred upon others it does not justify hatred of a race. Because a minority of extremists take it upon themselves to speak, unasked, for others, that does not render all guilty of murder nor should such atrocities be allowed to engender global hatred. If it does, the extremists have already won.
While the hearts of the free world go out to those in Paris, there are other victims of terrorism across the world, those who flee their homes to escape extremism, those who mourn daily the less reported atrocities, those who now walk our streets in fear of terrorist attack… or reprisal because of their faith or nationality.
Our governments tighten security, planning their responses to these atrocities; some individuals burn for revenge and retaliation, even against the innocent. Most simply wish we could find a way for the world to live in peace and feel too small on the global stage to affect the outcome of events. Yet peace has to begin somewhere and it can only begin in the hearts and minds of individuals. For that we are each responsible.
Nous sommes Paris. We are Paris. We are everywhere that is touched by violence, terror and extremism. We are of a single global family and every killing is fratricide.
‘In this climate of terror, it is important that we (…) speak out and remain united in the face of this horror that has neither colour not religion. Let us defend together love, respect and peace.’ Lassana Diarra, footballer, whose cousin was amongst the slain.