These past couple of days have sent a shockwave through the country of France. Three senseless acts of terrorism have deprived the world of 129 beautiful human souls, along with leaving 352 in serious condition. The attacks occurred at three different locations around the city of Paris: the Stade de France, the Bataclan theatre, and two different restaurants.
Unfortunately, this has been only one of the many terrorist acts around this world during the weekend of Nov. 14. As of now, seven suspected perpetrators have been identified and arrested. Most recently, French police raided two apartments and one church in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris. The two suspects in this raid are now dead, one gunned down by police, and the other by suicide.
About a year ago, my family and I were planning a trip to Paris to celebrate my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. We departed Grand Rapids shortly after Christmas Day, and in a matter of fifteen hours, we were settled into a small Parisian style apartment in the business district of Paris. I had never been to Europe before; I had no idea how I would settle into a whole different culture for ten days.
Paris was perhaps the most serene, welcoming place I had ever visited. One of the more vivid memories I had of the trip occurred as I was walking along the River Seine with my mom. Our trip was in the wake of the multiple police brutality cases and terrorism threats in the U.S. I remember my mom and I commenting on the pure serenity of the city and how unlike the United States, it seemed as though in Paris, there were no visible threats to worry about.
About three days after we returned home to Grand Rapids, I woke up to the news of two armed assaulters entering the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper based in Paris, and killing eleven people, while severely injuring eleven others. The offices were a mere five blocks away from where my family and I were staying. My thoughts immediately raced back to the conversation that my mom and I had, and the unwelcoming sense of irony hit me like a brick.
Now, almost a year later, we mourn yet another terrorist attack on Paris and the country of France as a whole. My plea to society is this: recognize the violence in this world. It is often times seen that the human race is so wrapped up in our own conflict that we forget to recognize the suffering faced by others across continents and cultures. In France, and around the world, humanity mourns.
Even some of the darkest times can bring out the true authenticity of the human race. In tragedy, words can only suffice for so much. However, they can also be the only thing to feed our dying hopes in these seemingly sorrowful times. In short, speak up. When the world needs hope, our words are needed just as well. Talk with your family, friends, classmates and professors about what you are seeing and what change you would like to see in the world. The only armor powerful enough to prevent a beaten down world is an open mind and moving lips.
Tonight, Albion College will pay respect to the victims of the attacks with a candlelight vigil at Victory Park. All members of the Albion College community are invited. The vigil is set to begin at 7 p.m.
Now, more than ever, we must remember the lyrics sung in a very prominent musical about the French Revolution:
“For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.”
Vive La France