Three years of my life as an EU student of English Literature at the University of East Anglia,England.
A week ago, on the evening of Friday 13th of November, Paris was attacked by terrorists in different places and at the same time. The Stade de France, the Bataclan – a concert venue – in a street next to a restaurant. 130 people, 130 innocents, were savagely murdered and many more were wounded and traumatised for life. But at least, those survived.
I learnt about it late on Friday while things were still going on in Paris. I got a message from my mother on Skype. At first, all I saw was “35 dead”. I thought it was about another coach accident or something like that. And then I read the full message. Paris was being attacked by terrorists. Again. Ten months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre that shocked France so deeply took place. An intense feeling of fear took over me. Unlike lots of people, I do not have any friends or family living in Paris: so why be so scared? I was safe at home in Norwich with my friends. I thought my fear wasn’t justified but I was getting more and more terrified.
Earlier that day, I joked about it being Friday 13th – like children in schools. Now France people will remember this date for very different reasons and probably won’t joke about it much anymore.
I opened my Guardian app and also Le Monde, a French newspaper, and followed all the news live. The number of dead people kept rising, every minute. More things were happening, more information was released slowly but we still didn’t really understand what was going on and I guess that’s what made me more and more anxious. On Facebook and Twitter, that is literally the only thing people talked about for a few of days. That evening, I kept switching between all these apps to get more news… We didn’t know who was doing it or why. At first we weren’t even sure whether it was a terrorist attack or not. But I’m sure the first thing everybody thought about in France was “Charlie Hebdo”. Not again… This is hell.
I finally went to bed quite late but was stuck to my phone. I couldn’t look elsewhere. That night, I barely got any sleep. My stomach hurt and every time I closed my eyes, I imagined the horror happening in my country, the country I am far away from. Shocked by all this, I wrote “I’m glad to be far from home and yet feel like I should be there right now”.
I messaged a French friend of mine who’s currently working as a language assistant on the Anglian coast. I said it didn’t make any sense for me to feel so bad and worried. He answered something that explains how we both – and how all the French people living abroad – felt and still feel a few days after this tragedy. He said it’s like have a relative who has cancer and you can’t even be there to support them. He’s right.
I saw awful and very disturbing photographs and videos of the attack that I wish I’d never watched.
For my English friends, it’s probably hard to realise just how shocked France is. It’s impossible for them to understand how I feel because they’re not the ones being far away from home. But when you’re abroad, you develop a weird sense of “patriotism”. You start missing things you’d always overlooked before, you realise how amazing France is, you realise how comforting home is, you realise how good baguettes and pastries are… Everything about your country makes you smile, because that’s where you were raised, that’s where your entire life is. Hearing someone speak your language makes you miss these things even more and you wish you could share some cultural references or jokes with someone who’d truly understand them. That’s why I went to the minute of silence at UEA, to feel closer to France and compatriots in a way. That’s why it’s so touching when so many people and countries show their support by using the French flag or this amazing symbol of peace that uses the Eiffel Tower.
France just stopped.
The entire nation is mourning because the entire nation is scared of this happening again, more and more regularly. It’s all about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s all down to chance. It really makes you realise how lucky you are when you and the ones you loved are simply alive. It’s something that suddenly hit everyone again last weekend.
Paris was attacked for the values it defends: “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”. Liberty, equality, fraternity. France is an amazing place that I’m proud to come from. I’m proud to support these values. Over the past week, an overwhelming wave of love, pride, support, fraternity and happiness took over France. I could see it very clearly in French media, on a few TV shows I managed to watch online and thanks to my French friends on Facebook. More than ever, French people want to laugh, go out with friends, hug their friends, parents, brothers, sisters, and even strangers! Like after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, a weird but amazing breeze of fraternity, solidarity and patriotism is blowing over France.
Of course, it is hypocritical. We all know these things happen on a daily basis around the globe. But it strikes you so much more when it happens in your country and it’s normal. Because it could have been you. It could have been your brother, your partner, your friend… It could have been you at that gig or at that restaurant.
Will you come back alive from the next gig you go to? What is your country going to become? What will happen next time? Is your country still a safe place to go to? Will you dare to go to Paris again? Will your city be next on their list?
They hit France straight in the heart, they hit places of entertainment, fun and culture – something these bastards apparently never heard about.
Disgusting politicians and other idiots have already started blaming it all on the Muslims and immigrants, as usual. It’s going to take a while for things to get back to normal, lots of serious political decisions will have to be made about security and protection of citizens and of borders.
Everybody is scared and it’s been an emotional week. However, everybody is more willing than ever to love, have fun and enjoy life as much as they can. People will keep going to concerts and football matches, people will still go out. You can’t just stop living.
And as you can now read all over Paris, “Fluctuat nec mergitur”, tossed but not sunk.