As I walked to get G from school, I messaged 3 of my friends to see if they wanted to meet up in the city that night. One friend, J was headed to a movie then maybe out afterwards, another had no money to go out, and another had just been told she had to babysit that night. Poor J later ended up having a terrible night on top of an already terrible day by getting locked out of her apartment and decided not to go anywhere. She recounted the entire story to me yesterday, and creepily enough, had such a bad day she had been texting a friend joking that with her luck that day, if she left her apartment she'd probably die by some awful accident. The movie she was planning to see was very close to the area where a lot of the incidents occurred, so thank God for her bad day and friday-the-13th luck. I really really wanted to go out Friday night, so I almost messaged the friend with no money to tell her I'd buy her a couple drinks, but for whatever reason I just decided to be lazy and stay home to watch movies in my room. I think it was a combination of not having definite plans and the gross weather that night, and just not wanting to be out in the misty, muggy rain. I've really wanted to check out an area called Bastille that so many people have told me to go to on a weekend with friends. So had someone been able to meet up, that would have been my suggested place to go. Bastille is in the 11th arrondissement and is about a 15 minute walk (less than a mile) from the Bataclan Club. With the metros being stopped and the chaos and curfew that ensued, I would have been stuck in the heart of the city and probably would have walked to J's apartment all the way in the 7th arrondissement (would have taken like an hour). All that to say, thank God for crappy weather, bad luck days, and being broke. All my friends are safe. None of my friends from church were hurt either.
It was J that replied to the group message asking if we were all ok and telling us what happened. Her friend in the US texted her asking if she was all right, and then she let us all know. Then I started streaming the news and the FB messages from my US friends and family started pouring in. At this point, it was just chaos and no one really knew what the motive was or who was behind it. But I appreciate all the love, prayers, comments, and messages from so many people wanting to make sure I was ok. Facebook had this handy safety check thing to mark yourself safe. A pretty cool feature that just popped up on my newsfeed.
Saturday, the city was pretty much shut down. I didn't leave the house, and at some point it was confirmed that ISIS had been behind these carefully coordinated attacks. I've of course heard of ISIS. I remember hearing about the attacks in Paris back in January revolving around Charlie Hebdo when 12 people were killed and 11 injured. When I first moved here, I noticed that when you walk into the Les Quatre Temps mall from the metro or parking garages, they check your bags every time. I also went into a Wal-Mart type store inside the mall called Auchan, where they check your bags again. I had brought this up to my host family, and I remember her telling me it was because of the January attacks.
I didn't know that in July ISIS had threatened to "fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies." And after what happened on Friday, I came across this article yesterday where ISIS has claimed "this is just the beginning of the storm." I don't claim to be an expert on what's going on with ISIS. Before Friday, I knew of course they were a threat around the world, but I didn't pay close enough attention to the severity of the situation. Before I came here, I lived in the safety of my little bubble, and maybe in some ways tried to block out the terror happening around the world because little old me can't do anything about it. I'm literally dependent on the safety that our government and servicemen and woman provide to protect our freedom. So right or wrong, I find that it is more peaceful to allow myself to be a little ignorant about the details instead of living in perpetual fear. But being so close to an ISIS related attack, I can't really ignore what is happening anymore. They are here and they hate me. I'm American, I'm Christian, I don't believe in their cause, I am a walking target, and they have vowed not to stop.
One of the more disturbing and eye opening articles I read was one from Politico.eu:
Al-Adnani called on supporters to launch attacks wherever they could. “The best thing you can do is to strive to your best and kill any disbeliever, whether he be French, American, or from any of their allies,” he said.
“If you are not able to find an IED (improvised explosive device) or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies, smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him. Do not lack. Do not be contemptible.”
The statement continued: “If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or business. Or destroy his crops. If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face.”
Yes, I knew these people were dangerous. But there is something about being here, seeing these places where some of these attacks happened for myself, and reading that it's not over, that really hit close to home. So why am I not on my way home to the safety of America? Because America isn't safe. ISIS is everywhere, they are sleeper agents of a deadly community that are continually plotting about who and where to terrorize next. They hate America. I'm no safer there than I am here. Perhaps that's not entirely true, since I'm in the capital of France where so many specific threats have been made, and America is quite large and it is much more likely to be safe. But I'm still not convinced. These radicals are everywhere, and they do not care if they are killed in the process of killing others. So what's to stop them from walking into some random store or mall in some random US city and opening fire? Nothing. We are living in a scary time, people. It really makes you stop and think about what's important and those you love, and what is totally unimportant (like a damn red cup). Take nothing and no one for granted and leave nothing unsaid.
I keep thinking about the one picture from Friday night that struck me most. It was one of the first photos I saw, so the attacks were still ongoing. It was outside one of the restaurants (I can't remember which one), and in it were 3 or 4 bodies covered in bloody sheets outside on the pavement. Yes, there are many photos from the other night that are like that. But this one, I don't know why, was just different for me. They were all girls, and as the news claimed, most of the victims were in their 20s and 30s. I could tell they were girls because of their shoes sticking out from under the sheets. All short boots with heels. And I sat there thinking...these girls got dressed up for a Friday night in Paris. They were out enjoying a meal or drink with friends, laughing, talking, and in one terrifying moment, they were just lifeless corpses on a cold street. In the chaos, their friends and family probably had no idea in that moment where their loved ones were. No idea that the picture they could have come across was actually someone they knew under that sheet. Their phones were probably near, and ringing off the hook with someone on the other line praying and praying for it to be answered. Is that a morbid thought? Yes, but what happened was meant to provoke terror and to throw people into the reality of the situation. This picture did that for me.
Yesterday, I went to church then decided to go to Place de la Republique and the Bataclan to see for myself the state of things. I took a lot of pictures. Here are a few:
There will always be an enemy threatening our safety and freedom. We need to stand together and not be afraid. Pray for Paris, and pray for humanity.