Editor’s note: The following commentary about Friday’s terrorist attacks on Paris is from Musings & Moonbeams: A Year in the City of Lights, a blog by Taryn Collier, a 24-year-old Carson City woman attending France Langue in Paris, France.
I was notified by Facebook that exactly one year ago today I posted this quote, “Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”— Vicki Harrison.
After being with a dear friend through her own tragedy and dealing with the grief that followed; I never thought I would be where I am today. I also never thought that exactly one year ago from the day I originally posted that quote that it would be useful for a completely different tragedy.
There are no words for what happened in Paris on Friday night. In fact, I am struggling even trying to put my feelings into words now, so bear with me. I can’t give you any details about what happened other than what you have seen in the news. To be honest, I didn’t even know anything was going on until my dad called to make sure I was home and warn me that there was a shooting. This was before any of the other attacks had happened that night. When I received that phone call, I immediately knew there was a reason that I had stayed home that night instead of going out with friends. My guardian angels were keeping me safe.
Coming from a small city in Northern Nevada, you don’t really experience these sort of crimes. We hear about this type of attack on the news all the time these days, and we grieve with the people who lose their lives and their loved ones, but it is a completely different feeling when it happens in your city. Even if it is only temporary, Paris has become my home. I walk these streets every day. I meet people at cafés, bakeries, grocery stores. I have created a routine here, and the thought that some of the people I encounter almost every day could be victims of this attack is absolutely heartbreaking. I have been lucky enough to find out that everyone I have grown to love in this city is safe, but that is not the case for many people here.
I tried to keep a brave face for my loved ones back in America, but the truth is, I was absolutely terrified. People I hadn’t spoken to in years were checking to see that I was OK, sending me well wishes of safety. Although comforting, this proved how awful these attacks were. When you read other people’s encounters, they say that this all felt like a nightmare, which is absolutely true. The videos and photos of scenes of the attacks didn’t feel real.
How could it be something so utterly horrific had happened in my city, the most beautiful place in the world? I didn’t sleep that night. Not only were sirens constantly blaring throughout the city, but I couldn’t bear the thought of sleep. A situation that was once difficult for me to understand was now happening right before me. Articles using words like “carnage,” “war,” “terrorists,” were flooding my news feed. I was constantly checking updated news, waiting to hear that the attackers had been captured, that we were safe.
I didn’t leave my apartment at all Saturday, still too frightened to walk the streets. Even though I live in an area away from the attacks, I was afraid that I was going to walk out and see that my favorite city had drastically changed. I caught my first glimpse at how the city was grieving when I went to dinner at my host family’s house. They had invited close friends and another au pair friend of mine over for the evening. It was great being around people who felt the exact same way I did: heartbroken for our home, scared that this could happen again, mourning the loss of well over a hundred innocent people. Of course, we talked about the attacks, but we also laughed together, told stories about our lives and the people in them. It was then clear to me this attack was not always going to be the center of our lives during my time here.
Sunday I walked around my neighborhood and learned something amazing: the people of France are not easily broken. There is a cloud of grief over the city today and probably will be for weeks to come, but as I walked around to my usual spots, I saw the same things I see every day. There were families in the park by my house, children laughing and playing. Couples holding hands on benches and walking around the city together. Old women walking their dogs. Groups of people eating and drinking at cafes and restaurants.
My fear that the city had drastically changed was not true. I have yet to walk the streets where these attacks happened, I am not ready for that yet, but I have faith that we will overcome this. We will continue to keep candles in our windows and support one another until we are healed. We will persevere even in the darkest times. Together, we will learn to swim. We will band together and not let the terrorists win by scaring us into not living our lives. We owe it to those who lost theirs so hastily to enjoy every minute we have on this earth, and that is exactly what I intend to do.
You can read more by Collier at https://musingsandmoonbeams.wordpress.com.