#JeSuisCharlie: In the aftermath of the Paris shooting

I did not hear the shots being fired, but I heard the sirens. In the 11th arrondissement of Paris, at the centre of the tragedy that took place yesterday when two heavily armed gunmen stormed the buildings of Charlie Hebdo and massacred 12 people leaving many more critically injured, there was silence among the sounds of sirens. I saw people leaning out of windows, turning on the TV, looking at their phones, calling their loved ones. As news of the gunmen fleeing Paris in stolen cars came through, the people of Paris continued as normal, going about their business, defiant in the face of terrorism. I never thought my first few days in Paris would be marked by such a shocking tragedy only a few minutes walk away, but I’ve been overwhelmed by the ability of the Parisian public to come together, united, for democracy, freedom and support for the victims. I am proud to call this place home, if only for a few months. Crowds of thousands, of all ages and walks of life gathered yesterday evening to mourn the dead, and to defiantly show the world that they were not afraid. Holding aloft pens and candles, we chanted: “On n’a pas peur! De langue, pas du sang! Charlie n’est pas mort! Nous sommes Charlie! Merci Charlie!” It was beautiful and moving. Chanting for the freedom of the press. Every now and then, someone would cry out: “Sit for Charlie, silence for the dead!” And the crowd in their thousands would sit down in unison, in silence. The silence of such an enormous crowd is the most moving thing to experience. At one point, someone started singing La Marseillaise and I saw a young boy moved to tears, holding his pen high up in the air. Charb (Stephane Charbonnier, 1967-2015) the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo who was murdered yesterday, said in Le Monde in 2012, “I prefer to die standing, than live on my knees.” In the words of Philippe Van, who spoke so powerfully and emotionally on France Inter radio, we mustn’t let silence win. We must preserve laughter. We must not live in fear. Today, it is raining in Paris, and the people of Paris are not afraid. #NousSommesCharlie

Paix Sociale

Charlie sign

candlescandles heart

Nous sommes Charlie

Place de la republique

pavement

Pens and candles

crowd


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