As I watch the horrific events unfolding in Paris tonight, of course my mind goes back to the years I spent in the City of Lights.
I remember that terrible day, 9/11, when I lived in Paris in a top floor apartment in the 16th arrondissement. From my window I could see all the way from the Cathedral in Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower. I stood in that window all afternoon and long into the evening, grieving for New York, and wondering if the Eiffel Tower would be the next landmark bombed. My Best Beloved was in Zurich, where the borders had slammed shut, and we didn’t know when we’d see each other again.
The French were amazing during that period. They grieved with Americans. They kept asking if I was all right, and although I kept saying I was a Canadian, they just shrugged, in that very Gaelic way, and asked again. The day after the whole city went silent for a moment, to honor the dead.
And now, I spend hours on Facebook and Twitter, trying to find out if friends and acquaintances are all right. I am glued, once again, to CNN, hoping for the best, fearing the worst, and grieving.
I am horrified not only by the numbers of dead, the senselessness of it all, but also by the ignorance and crippled souls of those on social media who insist that if ordinary people had guns, this wouldn’t happen, or who call for the death of all Muslims, or who insist all refugees must now be turned away.
Should we fall into that sort of cynicism, that sort of callousness, then the terrorists have won. I will not do that. I refuse.
To the families of the victims — your pain is unfathomable. I weep with you. I pray for you.
To those who have been driven from their homes by violence and hatred — I pray you may find a home and safety and people who will be kind.
To my Muslim friends — I know you grieve as I do, and you must be even more frightened than I am right now. May Allah bless and keep you.
We are none of us alone. We are connected in pain and in grief. By refusing to fall into cynicism, xenophobia and tribalism, we are truly warriors of the heart.
God bless us all, and bring us peace this night.