Nov. 13, 2015, was the day Paris was attacked.
I’ve tried more times than I can count to begin this column. There is so much I want to say, but no words can capture all the emotions I feel.
Nov. 13, 2015, was the day my home was attacked.
Angers, France, a small town located an hour outside Paris, was the place I called home for nearly five months. I walked those streets every day. I explored nearby towns. I made friends with the bakery owner down the street. France gave me memories I’ll never forget and friends I’ll always value. For me, France is home — a second home, maybe, but a home all the same.
When tragedy struck the city of Paris, my initial reaction was shock. I couldn’t understand why this would happen to a country that is so supportive of and open to other perspectives.
France is a country of acceptance. From the moment I would enter a shop, I was greeted with a smile and a friendly, “Hello,” and left with a parting “Have a good day!” Children at a nearby daycare would call out, “Bonjour, mademoiselle!” as they played jump rope in the schoolyard. Fellow students would wait for me after class and ask if I knew where Minnesota was, and if it was close to New York. Residents in the dormitory giggled as I taught them that, bien sûr, it is acceptable to eat a hamburger without a fork and knife. Late night discussions about politics always ended pleasantly, even if no one agreed about any topic. Everywhere I looked there was happiness and acceptance exuding from the face of every passer-by, and I realized this is routine — this quality of life is part of the French culture.
After the attacks, I saw a similar spirit of unity rise among those not part of the French culture. Friends from the U.S., Canada, Scotland and Austria posted messages sharing their condolences for those affected by the attack. While adding a tricolor filter to a profile picture or sharing a news update won’t bring back those killed in the attacks, it still shows the world is willing to unite to express solidarity during times of tragedy.
In addition to the outpouring of sympathy for the attack on Paris, I also saw people share a sense of exasperation, because the tragedy of Nov. 13 was not limited to Paris. There was an earthquake in Japan. Mexico experienced an earthquake and a hurricane. There were suicide bombings in Baghdad and Beirut. As Facebook and Twitter feeds filled with sympathy for Paris, there also were posts complaining these other catastrophes were not as widely acknowledged.
The Paris attacks do not detract from other tragedies that occurred. What happened in Paris serves as a reminder tragedy can happen anywhere, whether it be Beirut, Japan, Mexico or Baghdad.
We feel for France because it is a tragedy. And during a time of tragedy, it’s important to be united no matter what the issue is. While outward signs on something as shallow as social media might be filled with the blue, white and red of the French flag, in a much deeper way our hearts and minds are with all victims of the Nov. 13 tragedies.
Tragedy is senseless. It is gut-wrenching. But tragedy also unites us. Whether it be France, Mexico, Beirut or any other part of our world, tragedy is what reminds us that concepts such as borders have no real meaning. We all feel the same emotions, the same sense of solidarity. We are all united.
Nous sommes tous Paris.
Nous sommes tous le monde.
We are all united in tragedy.