We are scared. It feels like war

18 Nov 2015

 

I could write an opinion piece. Should we begin air strikes? Do people care about non-Western lives? Has the refugee crisis and immigration contributed to this disaster? But, to be honest, right now, I do not care. While the rest of the world poses questions, and the media quickly churns out presumptuous opinion pieces, Paris is mourning. And so, for now, all I can do is explain what happened.

 

On Friday night I hear news of the attacks. I am sat in my apartment in the 18th arrondissement, south of the Stade de France, and north of République and the Bataclan. I hear people rushing into my apartment block, as sirens scream. I watch the television for hours on end, as family and friends message me.

 

As a journalist, my instincts take over and I live-tweet the attacks.

 

 

I sound and feel detached. But as I watch the streets I’ve walked along so freely and frequently get littered with bodies, I cry. I’ve only lived here a few months. God knows what Parisians feel like. I cannot even bear to imagine.

 

It is the randomness of the attacks which strikes the most fear. I want to go to the supermarket to buy dinner, but will it be safe there? Attackers have killed in cafés, in bars, in concert venues, just fifteen minutes away. Why wouldn’t they come to my neighbourhood?

 

There is a sense of emotional remoteness when a bomb is planted. But the primitive horror of one human looking at another in the eye and shooting him/her with an assault rifle, before moving on to the next, is almost beyond comprehension.

 

I sleep to the sound of sirens, alone in my apartment.

 

Saturday dawns. The death toll rises. Paris is empty.

 

I had plans to go out today: to visit museums, to eat lunch, to take my camera and capture the beauty of Paris in autumn. Instead, I wake up too scared to go outside. I spend the day cooped up, watching the news in shock.

 

By evening, I have had enough. I storm defiantly out of my apartment, only to cower on the first step on hard ground. Saturday night is usually filled with diners and revellers alike, but tonight it is empty.

 

On Sunday, life is filtering back to Paris. People begin to fill the streets, to take the metro, to sit on the promenade and drink coffee. But there is a mist of sadness and fear fogging up the Paris air.

 

At Place de la République, people are giving out free hugs. Mourners are crying onto the shoulders of complete strangers. When I meet my boyfriend off of the Eurostar at Gare du Nord, he is greeted with a Paris he has never seen before; one where a small noise on the metro leaves citizens running with fear, one where armed police and the military can be seen on every corner, one saturated with tension that will cause his university to be evacuated the very next day when students leave their bags unaccompanied for just a moment.

 

 

If you visit Paris next month, next year, if you sit in a café drinking wine late into the evening, you might forget for a moment that this happened. But this will stay with Paris for a lifetime. This is not going away. The sorrow, and the fear, will remain.

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