It’s been a couple days since being home from my trip to Paris. I arrived there one day before the horrific attacks of last Friday and was, luckily, safely back at the hotel when these acts of cowardice, hate and horror occurred.
Friday was an absolutely beautiful day in Paris, full of sunshine and warm temps…a perfect day to be out photographing and a perfect night to be out enjoying the uncharacteristic November weather. Something we’ve been experiencing here in Chicago as well.
While I was horrified to hear about the attacks on the news that night, I was relatively far away from the sites and I didn’t know the area well. Luckily the team of people I was meeting with in Paris were all okay, despite later finding out some of them live nearby the attack sites. Even though I was in the city and only about 4-5 miles away from the attacks I felt very much like I was watching this from a distance.
The day after the attacks was cold, gray and cloudy, much like the mood of the city. I was a bit nervous to ride the metro, so I walked instead. The afternoon of the attacks, as I was boarding one of the trains, a group of three heavily armed military-looking men were at the metro station. Perhaps this is normal security for Paris, but I must admit, it made me nervous. So, I just felt better walking.
I walked over to the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and the 7th Arrondissement. I was feeling a little uneasy and wanted to stay somewhat close to the hotel and away from the attack sites. People were out, restaurants and shops were open…at least around the tourist sites. Further away from these locations was a completely different story. There were few people out and very few, if any, restaurants and shops open. Museums and monuments were closed but there were many people out enjoying the city’s iconic sites.
As I was walking to the Eiffel Tower I came across this delivery van outside of a flower shop. Just seemed like a nice sentiment given what had just happened.
The following day, Sunday, was beautiful. Warm weather, sunshine…something positive. I first visited fotofever, a photography exhibition at the Carrousel de Louvre and then thought I’d photograph the pyramids outside the Louvre and walk through the Tuleries Gardens. I was quite surprised to see even the courtyard at the Louvre and the Gardens gated off and closed to the public.
I decided I needed to, at the very least, visit the memorial site at the Place de la Republique. Despite the uplifting weather the mood here was very somber, as I’m sure you can imagine. People were hugging and crying, placing notes, candles and flowers at the base of the statue in the center of the square. Someone offering free hugs.
As sad as this was, nothing can compare to seeing the actual attack sites. I inadvertently came across two of the restaurants that had been attacked on Monday afternoon. Every time I think about these sites tears begin to well up. It’s easy to envision myself, or someone I know, sitting at one of these restaurants for dinner or drinks. I can imagine the complete shock and terror felt by everyone in this area from completely insane terrorists opening fire. The horror of seeing those bullet holes, chairs tipped over, the scene left in complete chaos from everyone running for their lives fills me with indescribable sadness and dismay.
While this was devastating to see on Monday, something about being home and seeing my family, is making this even harder. I don’t know if I was just in shock there and holding it together until I got home but the last couple days I can’t stop thinking about all this, I keep hearing the sirens wailing and picturing all these innocent people being terrorized. I can’t even fathom how the people of Paris, and especially the family and friends of the victims, are coping with all this. My heart goes out to them and nothing I say could ever be enough. All we can do is hope for a little more peace and more love in this world.
This is an amazing story and you have done a magnificent job reporting your thoughts, emotions and fears. Your photos capture a true vision of the city that many of us love in this time of crisis. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Rich 🙂
Those photos of the restaurant gutted me. Wow.
Free hugs! Someone speaking my language. 🙂
I know, it was truly horrifying to see. I figured you'd like the free hug sign 🙂
Thanks you for sharing this beautiful piece. You experienced something only a few in the world did. Not pretty by any means. But I appreciate how with your talent in photography you have captured the senseless tragedy in a very respectful and meaningful way. And your description helped, too, to give the reader a very vivid picture of the scene.
It is unfortunate that we have to experience tragedy in life, but you will take this and grow in ways you never expected.
So, with that, enjoy life! Enjoy your art!
Thank you for such thoughtful words, Deb.