I first learned about the attacks in Paris while I was doing some volunteer work on Friday. I was working on a computer when the volunteer coordinator broke the news and everyone stopped what they were doing to find out more information. Every few minutes, I would refresh the website that I was on to see if any updates were released, but I just felt sick and disoriented as the death tolls continued to rise.
When I got home, I was glued to CNN as reactions poured in from around the globe and survivors talked about what they had gone through before they were able to escape. 129 killed. Over 300 injured. Deadliest attack in Paris since World War II. First mandatory curfew in the city since 1944.
I had flashbacks to September 11, 2001. I was in the 7th grade and getting ready for school while the attacks on the World Trade Center were being covered on the news. The second tower collapsed before I left home and I remember continuing to watch the news in several different classes that day since it was the only thing anyone could think about. We were all on the other side of the country, but we felt the impact as Americans.
It is still a little surreal to think that I was just in Paris less than two months ago. I spent five-and-a-half days exploring the city and have a lot of positive memories from the trip there. I thought about what it would have been like if these attacks had happened during that time and how hard it would be to figure out what to do next. It gave me anxiety, but I realized that actual people did have to deal with those thoughts, the deaths of friends and family, and the changing of a city that they call home. I was feeling horrified and heartbroken even though I’m not French or Parisian, but those feelings are what all people should feel when humanity is attacked in such a way. #JeSuisParis spread through social media and we were all Parisians that day.
On a related note, the use of social media afterwards was impressive, from Facebook’s safety check-in system to help friends and family know if you were safe to the #PorteOuverte and #StrandedInUS hashtags to help those who couldn’t make it back home find a place to stay.
Yesterday, I was downtown and noticed that Los Angeles’ city hall was lit up in the French tricolor to pay tribute to the victims in Paris. There was also some street art that utilized graphic designer John Jullien’s now-famous symbol for peace that combines the traditional peace symbol with the Eiffel Tower. It was nice seeing my city show solidarity with France and its people.
I also want to acknowledge that horrific things are also happening around the world, not just in Paris. From Syria to Egypt to Beirut, terrorism is a global epidemic that needs to be addressed. I also hope that people are able to separate the groups that are responsible for the acts of terror from the general Muslim community. During times like these, people tend to be quick to make generalizations and assumptions about others, but much of that is just driven by our fear. We can’t let fear win.
I’ve written this before as a global studies major, but we are all part of this global community and we need to support each other. I’m not even saying you have to go out into the field or donate money. The reality is that some people just can’t afford to do either. Just support one another, no matter the race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, or nationality. Everyone deserves the same respect.
I’m not sure what the world will be like a ten years from now, five years from now, or even one year from now. Time will continue to move on, no matter what happens. It’s scary, but I still have hope for a better future. Good will beat out evil in the end, right?