Friday 13th November 2015 will permanently be remembered for one of the most damaging and well-executed co-ordinated terrorist attacks in recent history. 4 almost simultaneous incidents in Paris claimed the lives of 129 people and severely injured many more. It shocked the city, and a nation that was still recovering from 2 attacks in January earlier this year. I wanted to offer my thoughts on the past weekend and how we can make something positive from the events.
Before I continue I’d like to offer my sincerest condolences to those who suffered directly at the hands of the assailants on Friday night. For what it’s worth, my thoughts – and from what I’ve seen this weekend – the thoughts of the rest of the world are with you. No one should have to go through what you have.
I’ll remember where I was when it happened
I remember so vividly where I was when 9/11 happened, in my ICT classroom at school. I was 12 years old, and we didn’t really know how to process the news as we walked to the bus stop at the end of the day. It’s so clear, but 15 years later, I know that this weekend’s events will stick with me. I was sharing a glass of wine and dessert at a friend’s house in Montpellier and decided I’d put off reading the WhatsApp message that my phone was reporting until later, so as not to be antisocial. As it buzzed again I thought I’d just see what it was. That was it, the night changed after that. Cue the flurry of activity and my head in the news waiting for updates, getting involved in the voyeuristic society that we’ve become. I didn’t sleep until 4am, after finding out news on everyone I knew who had some connection to Paris.
The terrorist attacks in Paris feel so much bigger than any other recent atrocity. Perhaps because I’m in France, perhaps because I know of friends and friends of friends that were caught up in it to varying degrees, but I think that it’s more than that. The sheer evil of it, the will to hurt and to destroy is so frightening and I’m worried that it’s only going to worsen. It’s an enemy that I don’t think can be talked down or reasoned with. They will only accept complete surrender. What form that will take I don’t know.
The next day it felt necessary to do something different
Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité. The words so deeply engrained in every French person. Their principles.
I knew when I woke up on Saturday morning that I needed to get out of the house. At the time I just felt like the fresh air, but now I realise it was to take advantage of freedom: La Liberté. It’s so important to keep living and not give in to the shock. To show your fellow man that it’s ok, and that as a whole we are stronger than the few.
Seeing the city and country come together in solidarity
By Saturday afternoon I, along with some friends, went to La Place De La Comédie (the central square in Montpellier) to join thousands of other Montpelliérains in a pub show of solidarity. It was not the turn out that was hoped, but over 3000 attended what was a hurriedly organised event on Facebook. The Marseillaise (national anthem) was sung and tricolore flags were in abundance. Many buildings across the globe were lit up with the colours of the French flag in support. I don’t remember this level of togetherness throughout the world for any other such sad event. I believe this is where Égalité and Fraternité were represented best. Here is a short video (in French) showing the gathering in Comédie.
The time I realised how much I was affected
Come Sunday evening I went to watch the new James Bond film, Spectre. In hindsight perhaps it wasn’t the best film to go an see, but I’m not so easily shocked and can stay detached from real world events. About half an hour in, the emergency exit doors bashed open to the right of the screen, and some people walked in, some taking the steps to the right and the others to the left. Some went to the back and out the door and others took seats. There was lots of movement and noise and many of us were very shaken. In the dark you can not tell who these people were, and with my heart pounding in my chest I was aware that this is what it must have felt like to be helpless. As it turned out, these were just thoughtless teenagers trying to get in for free. A handful of people decided not to go back to the film, which by this point had been paused. I had moved myself and my friend to the corridor outside, where after a minute we decided to retake our seats.
Upon leaving the cinema, everyone was asked if they were ok. Our wellbeing was taken seriously. No one is taking this lightly.
This is a good opportunity to seize opportunity
The tragic events this weekend have only further encouraged me in my endeavours to continue a lifestyle of working remotely, independent of location. Not to be intentionally cheesy but if I died tomorrow it would be knowing it wasn’t after a day working behind a desk in a place that I resented. It further motivates me to gain some streams of passive income, keep learning French so that eventually I can monetise this new skill, and to live abroad to keep having new experiences. I am glad I am in Montpellier to see first hand how the French people react to such atrocious acts: by getting on with their lives as normal.
Do yourself a favour and start the new week proactively. Take a new online course somewhere like Udemy with a view to making some extra cash, look into teaching English online, or take a look at the 18 location independent jobs for motivation.
Love to everyone out there. Stay strong x