Perspectives from Paris



Grace Stewart

I am a junior studying political science and French with a minor in peace & justice.  I am currently studying abroad in Lille, France, about an hour north of Paris by train.

On Friday, Nov. 13 I was visiting Paris with my parents. We enjoyed being tourists in such a beautiful city, exploring Notre Dame and the Musée d’Orsay. 

That night we went out to dinner in the Pigalle neighborhood. Later we took the metro back to our apartment. Once we got back, we were sitting around planning out what we would do on Saturday—we were thinking about the Jardin de Tuileries, Champs-Élysées and a couple of museums. Suddenly, my phone buzzed with a BBC alert reporting attacks in central Paris.

We immediately turned on the TV and started flipping through the unfamiliar channels until we found a news station. The reporting was jumbled and chaotic, showing live images from the sites of the attacks. As I translated for my parents, the scope of what was happening started to become clear.

We sat, glued to the TV as updates continued to come in. People who knew we were in Paris started reaching out to make sure we were not in danger. The news continued, and the numbers kept ticking higher.

We were lucky—our apartment was about a mile and a half away from any attacks. The restaurant where we ate was two miles away. But 129 others weren’t as fortunate.

I have since returned to Lille, and my parents to the U.S. 

France has begun the slow and lengthy process of healing after this devastating attack. Demonstrations and vigils have been held nationwide in memory of those lost. Unfortunately, protestors demanding the removal of Muslims from France have sometimes interrupted these gatherings. One such protest happened here in Lille. 

This event clearly has massive political implications for France. Regional elections will be held in just a few short weeks, the outcome of which will be influenced by the events. Additionally, the outcome of these elections will impact the French government’s response to the tragedy. 

We have seen the echoes of the violence here in Lille. Lille is a relatively small town and doesn’t seem like it would be a target. However, for the first time ever I am seeing security guards on our campus. The school is implementing checkpoints in order to enter academic buildings—we need to show our student card in order to prove our identity and enter the building. I imagine this is happening across the country. When I travel in the next few weeks I know I will be seeing a massive security presence at train stations and airports. When my parents flew back to the U.S. they went through five separate security checks at the airport.

We have even begun to see the implications of this event resonating in the U.S. I have seen many calling for the U.S. to reject Syrian refugees. I have seen a presidential candidate say he would close mosques. I have seen people reacting with hate, and that is exactly what Daesh wants. I know it’s used a lot, but I think the quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is so relevant in this situation. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Daesh is hate. We cannot drive them out with hate—only with love.