Monday, November 16, 2015

Nous sommes Paris - Tossed but not Sunk

I left Paris last Thursday and Friday night horrific events happened as you and the world know. The streets and cafe's emptied and a concert hall held corpses.
Looking back, it feels as if that was a time of innocence. A time in the past we lost. Gone. Who knew this would happen? Yet, my mind went back to October 31st, a Halloween party at Arnaud's, a former Brigade Criminelle officer. He'd invited his friends - many in French law enforcement and top cops, to talk with me and celebrate his new flat in Paris' 13th arrondissement. Sophie, a female captain in the Paris homicide squad, Vincent in police communications, Ingrid in counter-terrorism, Marie-Pierre a judicial clerk manager, Jean-Marie back from counter-terrorism assignment in Pakistan... Very experienced and sharp folks who were open and fun, too. Arnaud opened Champagne. Ingrid, and the others talked about the ripples they still felt from the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January, their lost colleagues, how hard it was to profile a member of a shadowy terrorist cell, and sadness. When I asked Ingrid if the police thought another attack could happen, without even a pause she said 'Oh we know it will. It's just a question of when and how.'
These attacks in the 10th and 11th arrondissement happened thirteen days later. I'd walked in the 10th by one of the café's the other day, weather in the 70's, sunny and amazing for November. Everyone was out. A quartier I set a book in, an arrondissement home to immigrants and the 'populaire' - working class with so many cultures: Kurdish, Turkish, Hindu, Serbian as well as African and before them Ashkenazi Jews and Eastern European Communists. I walked down rue Jean Pierre Timbaud into the 11th where I also set a book, at the top of the street every kind of Koran shop, veiled women, wall plaques with a vase of flowers to the fallen 'Mort pour France' from the Nazi's, and at the bottom the Maison de Metallo's the old communist union of metal workers now an art and cultural center. Alive. True, as reports say parts have become 'branche' hip but there's still an edginess. The victims were young, culturally diverse and it boggles the mind why this neighborhood was targeted.
But a lot of wonderful things did happen during my trip; leading a tour to sites in my fictional detective's life, visiting friends, researching and being a 'flaneur'. Here are pictures of a happier time:
 Ecole des Beaux Arts notice the heart :)
 The leaves were turning all kinds of colors
 Art Nouveau tiles on the fish shop
 Mondrian the house cat on the balcony
 Lunch with the flics
 The Aimée Leduc tour members in the Italian Consulate's garden

On Wednesday I attended the annual Armistice ceremony held at 11am on November 11 to remember when the Armistice was signed in 1918.

This ceremony was at the Mairie - townhall - in the 11th arrondissement very near the cafes where the terrorists struck and the Bataclan concert hall. At the ceremony the students from local lycée Voltaire sang the Marseilleise, people laid wreaths in commemoration and in this remembrance of World War I, the war to end all wars,  those young schoolgirls above read letters sent home from French solider's to family from the trenches. The man with them, a Rèsistant, spoke of the horrors and senseless deaths that created a generation of widows and orphans which reasonated today.  This Mairie opened it's doors Friday night for the wounded and held a blood drive. I pray none of the children or their families were affected by what happened. Here's the video of them singing the Marseilleise linked on Facebook

At home on Friday, jet lagged, messages started coming from people asking me if I was alright, if my friends in Paris were safe. What did that mean? A quick check of the news and I saw the unfolding horror of innocent people gunned down and the saga of the crimes happening in Paris. Even though we lost an innocence, my Parisian friends say don't forget  'Fluctuat nec mergitur' the Latin phrase meaning "Tossed but not sunk" and the motto Paris has used since at least 1358.
Cara - Tuesday


  1. I've been anxiously awaiting your comments on Paris.How poignant to see the Armistice celebrated just days ago; and now heavy bombings are underway.

  2. Thanks Sujata.Yes the Armistice ceremony was all about peace and remembrance to prevent this happening again. My friends in Paris say they won't be put off living their lives now or the terrorists have won.

  3. I just hope that something positive can come out of this. Over here we are hearing reports on 'reprisal' attacks on Muslim owned businesses, the Koran being burned in the street etc

    I confess to being intrigued by a report that the 'Hacker Collegiate' are now turning their talents to hunt down the terrorists. Good luck to them.

    As a little contribution I have cancelled the Christmas Night Out at work to donate the money to the Syrian Refugee Crisis and I'm sure many patients will be putting hands in pockets.

  4. Cara, I love the motto! That it was chosen in 650 years ago and Paris is still Paris proves that it has weathered many storms.
    When I get discouraged about how a particular political leader is handling things, I remind myself that there was time when Caligula was in charge of Rome. And yet today, people are still living there, going to work, falling love, having babies, painting pictures, learning to play the piano. The sting of these days hurts deeply. But Paris endures. Vive la France!

  5. Caro, what a good idea in way of contribution. France has lots of hotlines and twitter handles for victims and families to reach each other now. Social media is cutting through the red tape.

  6. I've been traveling during the days and glued to France24 in the evenings. Those photos of your good times before Friday capture a sense of innocence hard to imagine against what's happening now. I'm not sure when it will return, but return it shall for we all know that is the way of the French!

  7. Stay safe Jeff! France24 by far has the best reporting, BBC is good too.