I remember hearing my parents screaming in a confused combination of French and English. I saw my Dad trapped in the door of the Metro and stood on the station holding my brothers telling them it was okay. We were shaking.
A man had tried to take my Mum’s purse. Dad stood in the door to stop the train moving away. We got the purse back and went to spend the money on ice cream. This came the day after I’d seen men being chased by the police under the Eiffel Tower and hadn’t been able to sleep until my Aunt had comforted me. Turns out they weren’t bad men, just selling things somewhere they shouldn’t have been.
Despite these incidents, I have happy memories of our time in Paris. I can’t have been much older than ten, but I remember running up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower (I also remember my Uncle getting lost on the Eiffel tower – oops!). I remember it being hot and I remember getting a little Eiffel Tower keyring, it was my prized possession for a while. I remember the Arc de Triomphe and how big it seemed. I remember going on a river boat and floating past Notre Dame. I remember not really understanding the big deal with the Mona Lisa, but Mum seemed delighted to have seen it.
Some years later, I visited again with school. This time we got cleared out of a restaurant for fear of a bomb being down there. I have no idea what it actually was, but it definitely wasn’t a bomb and we all got free ice cream which the teachers dutifully bought us out of the ‘emergency fund’. I remember going around a castle and creating some sort of joke about the sheer number of chairs in there. I remember buying berets with my friends and pottering around Paris in them feeling like we were as cool as cool can be. I remember climbing the Eiffel Tower again and marvelling and the vastness of Paris, and at how well organised it was.
A couple of years later, my parents and my best friend’s parents went by themselves while my friend and I were left in charge of my house and our brothers. Our parents had a brilliant time and came back with many happy memories and stories. Mum and Dad had caught part of the Tour De France (this was pre-Tour De Yorkshire times). They returned with Aprons and trinkets (I still have the Apron hanging on the back of the bathroom door (I don’t know why we keep them there…)).
Paris has always been a remarkable city to me. Close enough to be easy to get to, but far away enough to seem foreign and exciting. I remember it being full of hustle and bustle with a mixture of tourists and workers. I remember it feeling quite arty. It’s a truly beautiful city.
The attacks of the last 24 hours are horrific. I don’t understand what causes one human being to hurt another, perhaps I never will… in some ways I really hope I never will. One thing I am sure of is that no religion causes this. People do, but religion doesn’t, and when writing about these attacks, we need to be incredibly careful not to group people into one religion or one race, because it’s dangerous and does nothing but breed fear and spread hate.
I feel incredibly lucky that I can walk out of my flat today and drive in the car with my Dad without fear of being shot by someone or shaken by an earthquake. I have my room, I have my memories on the wall, I have blankets to wrap up in and cushions to sink into. I am luckier than so many in this world and for that I am immensely grateful.
I don’t understand the meaning or reason behind these terrorist attacks – in Paris or in other areas of the world. I don’t understand the meaning or reason for natural disasters. I don’t know why these things happen and why innocent lives are lost to things like this every day of the year. But I know that this can’t harden us to the world. I know that people’s kind nature has already shone brightly in the darkest of times over the past 24 hours and before. We need to keep being kind to one another and keep sharing hope, love, joy and kindness with each other because if we haven’t got that then what have we got? Perhaps we can’t “fix” Paris, Japan, Beirut, Baghdad, or anywhere else, but we can show kindness to those around us. We can do little things that make big differences to our loved ones and those we come into contact with every day.