Not even scared? Paris’ nightmare from its point of view


Photo via under the Creative Commons Licence

Sitting in a stereotypical French café, with our café crèmes it felt like old times, like I had never left Paris and nothing had happened while I was gone. But a week before in a café all too similar to this one people were shot dead. On November the 13th 130 people died in a series of atrocious attacks on Paris.

If someone were to go to Paris now on the surface they would think it is just a normal metropolis being its normal busy, lively self. But it only takes a conversation, a second glance to understand that something is off. Starting by the flight there. The whole row next to me was empty and so were the two others in front.

After all the happy hugs and nostalgia fueled embraces I was sitting down with my friends in the café. Banter flew and French slang dominated the conversation. Everything was the same until, we had to leave and the famous question came up “what should we do?” An horrific rating and elimination process started.

“The cinema in Boulogne”,

“No cinemas are terrorist gold”

“But the area is pretty low key”

“what time is the movie?”

“7. 45”,

“I don’t know guys that’s pretty late”.

This was done for every proposed location. What was most upsetting about this process was the way my friends seemed to do it methodically as though it’s normal and they have done it 100 times. Sure annoyance, anger, sadness were all in their voices but it was this sense of almost resignation and forced acceptance. And I saw this throughout my stay. We almost absent mindedly avoided all metros, crowded, popular areas as though it was just common sense logic. And if I proposed a place where we used to hang out that fit that description they would look at me with confused airs of disbelief.

When we passed touristy areas in front of major attractions dozens of soldiers patrolled the areas with cold stares and assault rifles. The Parisians seemed to not even see these scenes as if they were ordinary parts of their daily lives they had come to terms with. There was a sense of annoyance and tiredness surrounding these high risk areas. An event that most marked me was when my friends and I were walking down a street and suddenly we heard a large bang. Immediately all the people in the street froze and fear filled their eyes. When it became clear that it was simply an ordinary sound and not one of the hundreds of scenarios the people on the street had imagined, a sense of sadness and anger filled their now cold stares.

My friends mumbled things along the lines of “it isn’t normal that we assume straightaway it’s gun shots” and  “when did I start expecting these things?”

There is nothing more upsetting than seeing a city you love because of its “joie de vivre”, energy, liveliness turned into a cold, tired, scared, angry and suspicious epicenter. One of the famous banners in Place de la Republique  reads “meme pas peur” not even scared. But I didn’t feel that walking through Paris. I felt fear, dismay, suspicion and an annoyance only later followed by anger and disgust. I was upset because after the Charlie Hebdo shootings Paris had been filled not mainly by fear, but by a righteous anger and sense of revulsion and disgust towards the oppressors. But this time it’s different. The attack was too personal, too central, too painful.

But I did get one glimmer of hope that makes me certain that Paris will rise stronger from this, a friend of mine said this after a lengthy debate on our fear of going into a particular area, “life goes on”.