In the wake of another unfathomably tragic attack, I feel compelled to add mine to the litany of voices speaking out against the most recent atrocity to strike at the heart of the French Republic. Perhaps it is a sense of obligation, as my situation allows me the unique opportunity not only to share in a city's mourning, but to once again witness its resolve, strength, and spirit firsthand.
Paris became my home in October of 2014, 3 months before the Charlie Hebdo shootings shook the country more profoundly than any event since "la 2ème Guerre Mondiale." As I stood in the midst of a sea of over 1 million demonstrators, more souls than have ever congregated in the streets of Paris since it was liberated from Nazi control in 1944, I can remember the flood of emotions that surged within me; but perhaps none more strongly than an overwhelming sense of awe.
You see, before it became dubbed "The City of Love," Paris had earned another moniker: "La Ville Lumière," or "The City of Light." Historians may argue (and rightly so) that this was predominantly due to its early adoption of gas street lamps. However, those with a more philosophical bent will note that the city's leading influence during the Age of Enlightenment helped bring new significance to this nickname. Despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth this has prompted in many an extremist, Paris was and very much still is at the epicenter of free speech, open thought, and new ideas throughout the world.
And like all truths so long accepted that they become part of the fabric of one's identity, there is both a beauty and a violence in their reawakening, like a volcanic rupture sprung to life after generations of dormant tranquility. So it is with La Ville Lumière, and the attacks that have, contrary to their intentions, only strengthened her spirit of dialog and open-mindedness.
I'm no sociologist, merely a first-hand participant in the unfolding of history. Nevertheless I can assure you from my experience here that there has been no dampening in that uniquely Parisian thirst for freedom, equality, and unity since nearly 130 innocent civilians were murdered here on Friday night, nor (I can safely attest) will there be no matter how many misguided and cowardly acts of terror are waged against one of the world's most beautiful symbols of free thought and expression. Beneath the weight of an immense sadness that it is once again forced to shoulder, the City of Light shines today with tremendous renewed brilliance, and everywhere you look mindful discussion and messages of consolation and support replace what little remains of that night's senseless hate and barbarity.
I consider myself fortunate to be here in these moments, to witness such solidarity, and hope that by sharing once more in a nation's grief I can in some small way help it to heal. This is a role we all must play, whether at home, in France, in Lebanon, or in countless other countries around the world. Because as cliche as it may sound, the reality remains the same that when we stand in support of each other, whether during times of great despair or times of great joy, we reaffirm those human values that alone can bring us beyond the depravity that these attacks represent.
Vive la France, et paix à Paris.