“So, so glad you folks are not in Paris now,” a very good friend wrote. We welcomed her warm words but strangely enough, we wished we were in Paris.
Those of you who read this column will remember I wrote from Paris while we lived there the month of October. It was our final visit following seven or eight trips over the past 40 years.
Francophile husband and I have been transfixed by the continuous coverage of the mass killings of 12 cartoonists and staff of a satirical cartoon magazine, the hostage takings and killings in a Jewish Kosher grocery store, the police raids and the scene of over a million people gathered to promise unity and tolerance and vowing to stop Jihadist evil.
During the week, we reached out to the very few people in France for whom we have contact information. Husband labored over a message to a bookstore owner who gave him a small mystery book to translate to English. We wanted and needed to express our considerable sadness to them.
We understood because we loved their city. We understood because we had 9/11. Several French people called the act of terror “their 9/11.” All explained that it wasn’t of the same magnitude rather it was the same incomprehensible attack on their freedoms.
Both 9/11 and France’s recent events changed our world view and challenged our sense of security in the face of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 9/11 often has been referred to as a loss of innocence.
Anyone over 20 remembers where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. I recalled being stunned for days. Shock and denial is the first stage of grief. I felt numbed and did inexplicable things like turning from my road in front of a car turning left and impulsively hugging a colleague in the halls of OMC. You know. You remember.
Now, 13 years later, I reflect on the spirit of a mass of people gathered in the face of danger to strike down evil with their presence. I want to be there and be part of the movement. I want the movement to be armed with unity, tolerance of differences that do not matter and a single laser-like focus on truly crushing the evil of those who wantonly kill in the name of any god.
I think about the power that a coalition of the world would have against the still small group that terrorizes us. I’ve often wondered about the missed opportunity of the heinous 9/11 attacks. The world seemed to stand with us in whatever we chose to do.
Instead of rallying at the moment of this horrendous event, we were told to go back to normal life, shop and fly again. We were asked to make no sacrifice whether in sending our children to war or paying more taxes to finance the war.
Our resilience was manifested not in rhetoric of values for freedom but rather in maintaining an economy and trusting our paternal leaders. We do understand that we are not as small and homogeneous as France so it is less easy for us to gather but we had no one asking us to do so in any way.
In some ways, our response and subsequent actions as a country are as incomprehensible as the terrorist act of 9/11.
It is with this hindsight that I want us to be part of the world coalition that truly rises against terror and evil. It remains to be seen how much the voice of these millions and countries represented on that Sunday are able to sustain and build the will to fight and win.
There is hope. The historic French shouts of “liberty, equality and brotherhood” were loud. Husband and I have learned during our times in France that revolution against tyranny occurs when needed and it is so needed now.
What will America do? Who will we be — the country that was formed with the help of the French or the country that voted to rename French fries American fries because the French did not support the war in Iraq?
A week passes between the time I submit my column and its publication, so we will have some answers.
Meanwhile, I will share two responses we received before Sunday in answer to our message of sympathy.
“Thank you for your warm words, thank you very much … Sad yes.” and …
“Thank you so much for your cheering words. We are all very shocked by those terrible events and we are also gathered to say we won’(t) part with this violence. Your country had also this force to resist. Sincerely yours, and thank(s) once more.”
Tristesse pour France and for us.
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.