Paris, the City of Light, deep in mourning. The Eiffel Tower, dark. No lovers roaming the deserted streets. A friend, who has lived there many years, laments: “This is so not Paris. This is a city in pain. It feels like a war zone, surreal, incredible.”
I had a brief taste of Paris years ago. My daughter and I took a hovercraft from Dover, England, and a short couple of hours later we were in France.
I loved it all: my baguette with ham and cup of sweet milky coffee on the train to Gare du Nord; my first whiff of a boulangerie; and the sight of a not-so-young couple “making out” in the park.
We did the tourist thing: took photos in front of and under the tower; gawked at the Arc de Triomphe; walked the halls of the Louvre; stood on both banks of the Seine and prayed at Cathedrale Notre Dame.
But last Friday the 13th, the lights went out in Paris.
One hundred twenty-nine lives were snuffed out. Blood ran on the streets. What is it with the world?
In a show of solidarity, the worldwide net wore the colors of France. All of a sudden we were all French. Once again, the world came together.
Why is it that only when we see such an aberrant display of man’s inhumanity to man do we tap from the well of tenderness that lies within each one of us? Why is this the only time we feel as one with the rest of the world? I remember the aftermath of 9/11. There were no borders then, at least not for a while.
The details of the carnage of Nov. 13, 2015, are slowly being revealed. Is there someone still at large? We know who’s to blame, but can anyone really understand why?
In the meantime, the flowers have started to wilt on the streets and wherever else the victims lost their lives. Candles will soon go out and the mourners will leave and move on. Life continues. It always does. And we each will seek our own little safe and cozy corners where we can quietly cower in fear, waiting for the next time.
A devastated Frenchman mourned his wife with a stunning tribute, a message to the terrorists. It is an inspiring piece written by a man with perhaps good reason to lose faith in God and mankind. His eloquent and staunch refusal to join their culture of hate has gone viral.
Antoine Leiris writes:
“On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I do not know who you are and I don’t want to know. You are dead souls.
“If the God for whom you kill so blindly made us in His image, each bullet in my wife’s body would have been a wound in His heart.
“Therefore I will not give you the gift of hating you. You have obviously sought it but responding to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be afraid, to cast a mistrustful eye on my fellow citizens, to sacrifice my freedom for security. Lost. Same player. Same game.
“We are only two, my son and I, but we are more powerful than all the world’s armies. In any case I have no more time to waste on you. I need to get back to Melvil who is waking up from his afternoon nap. He’s just 17 months old; he’ll eat his snack like every day, and then we’re going out to play like we do every day; and every day of his life, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom; because you don’t have his hatred either.”
I am awed by the man’s courage and character.
And we held our collective breaths for a week as we hosted the meeting of 21 of the most powerful leaders of the world. It went amazingly well, much to the dismay of the doomsayers, some of them our very own people. Shame on them! Mabuhay ka, Pilipinas. Thank you, God.
Getting in the spirit
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Have you checked Ayala Avenue? Our neighborhood has likewise started to sparkle and shine. I think that at least for the season, we have set aside the squabble of the new gates. But Commerce is still congested. Just saying.
The trees on our main streets are getting their yearly festooning with white stars. Soon our neighbors will try to outdo one another in holiday exuberance. Lights in all colors and types are going up, hang the cost of power. Someone has snow on the front lawn. There’s a tree house down the street. Every time we drive by I feel like I’m 8 again. It needs a little farol.
Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. My menu is set. Of course we’re having turkey and all the trimmings. Our tree is up and looks lovely in its new corner. At our house the aromas wafting from the kitchen officially announce the start of “that wonderful time of the year!”
Last year each guest brought a potted poinsettia. This time I will ask them to give some thought, as we all should, to the question: “What are you thankful for this year?” My list would be endless.
And before dinner, together as family, we will thank God for His infinite grace, for blessing us abundantly, more than we could ever dream or even imagine. More than we deserve.