domenica, Settembre 26

France stands tall once again field_506ffb1d3dbe2

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Paris –  It was a typically Parisian Friday evening. In a café on the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, I had a discussion with a female music conductor, who works with military orchestras. We talked about politics and culture; and we had a conversation about Paris.  Then, I left the café in a hurry, as I had to finish some work in order to have a good weekend. I wondered what to do during that weekend. The vibrant City of Lights presents one with many options for entertainment and cultural activities, to a degree difficult for any other to match.

It was a mildly cold evening. The streets were somewhat busy. The whether has been quite enjoyable in Paris these days. I sat  at my desk to start working. I discovered that a mass shooting had taken place in Paris, when I routinely checked my Facebook News Feed. I was in disbelief. I switched on my TV and I kept texting and calling my friends, in particular those who I thought might have been near the Bataclan concert venue. And it took me long minutes until my confusion subsided.

My  mind spontaneously Made an account of all my friends and acquaintances. Love that night had the sound of an SMS tone followed by the question “where are you?” as later said  comedian Nicolas Canteloup. I also made calls to my family members around the world, explaining the situation and saying  that I was fine.

I started to really grasp the impact of what was going on when I received from Facebook a notification asking me to respond by saying  either that I was safe or that I was not in Paris. I later received notifications with the responses of my Facebook friends in the city.

The night was long. On Saturday, having decided with a friend that we would fight back in the best possible way, living a normal life and not giving in to fear, I went to his bookstore in Montparnasse, the emblematic Tschann. On my way, I passed by the Invalides Museum, which is also Napoleon’s last resting place. It was closed, but tourists were snapping pictures next to the canons ornamenting its outside. Suddenly, I missed  those long  lines that I had often tried to avoid by looking for the least busy time slots to visit it.

I could not  remember the last time I had seen Montparnasse that quiet. It was nearly deserted. It seemed that only Tschann  was full of people. And it was vibrant. As usual, I found people to debate with. And it was a heated debate. But it wasn’t the kind of debate the terrorists who had struck Paris the night before had wanted to stir. It was not a debate about immigration or cultural wars. Our debate was about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Later we had other discussions about the welfare state and the thirty-five hour workweek.

I was glad I had gone to Tschann, although the sight of a deserted Montparnasse had been gloomy. A few hours later, we heard rumors of another shooting in the area. I went on another phone calls frenzy, calling everyone I knew who could be near  Montparnasse. But I later found out that this was a false alarm. On Sunday, the city was subjected to other false alarms. Gatherings in memory of the victims were broken several times due to noises that sounded like little explosions or gunfire. These gatherings were natural and they took place despite warnings from the Government. There was a feeling of defiance among the Parisians. Since the attacks, defiance has been their contemporary version of La Résistance under which the French fought the Nazis in the 1940’s.

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