November 30, 2015, by Gemma Coleman
Life after the attacks: Paris will always be my Paris
You’ll have probably read and watched a lot about Paris on social media and the news in the last couple of weeks. You’ll have read about the deadly attacks, anti-terrorist raids and European cities experiencing ‘lock downs’ in the wake of November 13th. So saying nothing new here, Paris didn’t feel like itself for the few days following that night – laughing over drinks with friends seemed insensitive, emergency evacuations of cafés and my university were becoming part of the everyday routine and the city of lights felt a little less sparkly.
The question is, how do you move forward after something like this happens?
Truthfully, I don’t know. For the couple of days after the attacks, I didn’t really want to leave my room – living in the 11th arrondissement, it all felt a little too close for comfort. As much as everyone says you can’t let fear stop you from living your life, it’s normal to become a little paranoid. Suddenly the noises from a building site sound like gunshots and an unattended bag becomes a major concern.
But beginning to move on from this became easier after my friend Chris (who is also a Nottingham student on exchange) and I visited the make-shift memorial sites together at the Bataclan theatre and Place de la Republique. It was a difficult evening and seeing the places I’d been reading about on loop for the week following the attacks made it all frighteningly real.
It is all part of the healing process, though, and seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up in the colours of the French flag helped to start undo the uncomfortable knots that had formed in my stomach after the first ‘Let me know that you’re safe’ text.
I have three weeks left on exchange and it is a sad ending to my time here. But this won’t be how I remember my Paris. For me, Paris will always be my favourite bistro and it’s thick slices of tarte aux amandes. It will be eating Nutella crêpes on the long walk home from university. It will be nodding my head and forcing a strained smile when I pretend to understand French. It will be living with the coolest family in East Paris and my favourite French cat.
For me, Paris will always be my Paris. Fluctuat nec mergitur. Tossed but not sunk.