That was my first thought when I heard the DJ on my car radio say that her thoughts and prayers were with the people of the French capital.
“Why, what happened in Paris?” I asked out loud as my mind began a panicked race through the possibilities.
I only had time to type “Par” into my iPhone before the light turned green. Those three letters were enough to bring up headlines with the words “gunman,” “hostages” and “explosions.”
I know I should have focused more on the first two words, the human lives in danger, but the one that made me gasp was “explosions” — what had the cowards blown up now?
For me, the Eiffel Tower reduced to a pile of steel beams, flames coming out of Le Musee du Louvre or L’Arc du Triomphe reduced to rubble would signal the end of civilization.
Of course, our thoughts and condolences go first to the families who lost a loved one in a terrorist attack, but after the dust has settled there is another sense of loss to grapple with.
When cowardly terrorists attack we asses not only how much of our security we have lost and how much fear we have gained, but also what symbols have been taken from us.
On 9/11 it was two towering beacons of business and commerce.
At the Boston marathon it was the sense of accomplishment that a finish line banner represents.
By attacking Paris they tried to rob us of the beauty man can create.
How many of us went to the City of Lights to be exposed to great art, architecture and history on a large scale for the first time? And how many still dream of taking that trip someday?
Those who let was happened Nov. 13 stop them from pursuing that dream, make our loss all the greater.
My middle school French Teacher (J’taime Mme. Theisen) required all the 9th graders on her trip to Paris to take the stairs up the great monuments we visited. To experience them fully, we climbed up, down and all around L’Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, La Musee de Orsay, Le Musee du Louvre–and of course La Tour Eiffel (It’s 1,665 stairs to the top, but only the 719 to the second level are open to the public).
I love that tower because it doesn’t serve any purpose but to be a beautiful, fanciful attraction.
When it was built for the 1889 World’s Fair it was meant to be temporary (lasting 20 years tops). Yet here we are 126 years later with about 7 million people from around the world walking beneath it’s wrought iron arches and toasting champagne at the top.
To me it’s our most magnificent symbol of art for art’s sake–and I just can’t bear the thought of it being taken from us.
Before building the tower that bears his name, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel leant his engineering expertise to La Lady Liberty. The Statue of Liberty (As we call her here at home) is another work of art that exists only to symbolize one of our treasured values: freedom.
Perhaps it too soon to look for a positive from the attacks in Paris. Perhaps not. I know it couldn’t be any worse for 130 families, but for those of us who treasure our symbols of art, culture and freedom–it could have been absolutely devastating.
And the cowards didn’t stop Paris from being Paris. Residents and visitors to the city filled cafes and restaurants four days after the attacks in act of defiance. We should do the same and keep plans to visit Paris, or even make plans were there weren’t any before the attack.
I know I can’t wait to get there and visit Paris’ symbols of art, culture and freedom from fear.