I’ve been watching the emerging story of the attacks in Paris, watching as more information is released. Watching as the death count rises. While I don’t believe this kind of coordinated attack is unprecedented (history is full of horrible things), I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like it in my (albeit short) lifetime. Every story is terrible, but the worst, for me at least, is the story coming out of the Bataclan concert hall, which was attacked by a series of shooters. The death toll at that location alone is over a hundred.
Last week, I spent a while talking with several local students and another exchange student about a variety of topics, mostly history and politics. We also discussed The Walking Dead, and someone mentioned that everyone in America seems to own a gun. I told them that wasn’t really true, but that guns were much more common than they appeared to be in Britain. Then I tried to explain to them about the culture of fear built up around mass shootings, how every school has a plan, how I’ve had casual discussions with fellow students about what we should do if we encounter an active shooter during a show we’re stage managing. They were slightly confused. Here, in England, that’s not really a concern. And that’s a wonderful thing.
My knowledge of French culture is very limited, but I don’t think mass shootings, especially on this scale, would have been a concern for them either. Until tonight.
Tonight, a series of coordinated attacks taught the people of Paris fear. They should have been fine. They should have been safe. This sort of situation just doesn’t happen in peaceful countries, or at least it didn’t until tonight. Tonight, Paris was rocked with bombs and heavily armed shooters. The country closed its borders. Every time I check the news the death toll has risen. And there’s still a chance for further violence.
Fear is an exhausting emotion. Maybe what I hate most about this whole situation is that these people, whoever they are, have taught an entire city, an entire country, fear.
I’m sure as the days continue we’ll hear more stories from the attacks. We’ll watch as what happens and what has happened shapes France’s future, maybe even our futures. The only hope I find is that almost as soon as I heard about the attacks I also heard that Parisians were opening up their spare rooms and couches to those left stranded by them. There are still good people out there. There always are. And I’ll be praying for them, and the rest of Paris, as they mourn and try to find ways to recover.