Monday, November 16, 2015

Standing united




There were nearly two hundred of us waiting outside the gate. Everyone was talking quietly, giving bisous to those they hadn't yet seen since Friday night. 

Monsieur le Maire, wearing his tricolor sash, was the first to enter the school courtyard where all of the students were lined up in rows. Some were tittering nervously but all remained still, in place, as members of our tiny village filed in slowly. All extraneous conversation fell away.

I was there with my friends Madame L and her fine companion W. I had written an email the night before asking if I could accompany them. Although I would have gone alone, I have been in a fragile state and thought it best to be surrounded by people who I could rely upon if need be. My friend C, the first "Americaine" of the village, crossed through the crowd. "I want to stand with you guys." It felt really good to see her. She was clearly moved and I felt it echo through me as we hugged.

Shortly before noon, the mayor read a short speech about the importance of our coming together as a community and a nation, that we are here, standing united in the face of such barbaric acts. His hands were shaking slightly. I looked around and saw faces of all ages, from tiny babies to the advanced elderly, all listening, present. He spoke on, honoring lives lost.

Afterwords Madame F, the head of the school, explained what the faculty had done with the students that morning. She told us of the words that were presented and explained, words like Daesh (the acronym used in France for the so-called Islamic State), Syria, Belgium, terrorism, terrorist...and what it is to live in France, what is a democracy, what does the tenet of that mean. 

The mayor called for a minute of silence. I had gripped C's hand at some point. I bowed my head and prayed...I tried to find the words...I have had such a hard time finding the words or even speaking at times over the past few days. When I failed I directed my heart towards the victims, their families, their friends and loved ones...and all who were touched directly and indirectly by this massacre. Which means, finally, all of us. 

The minute over, the bell of the town hall began to toll and one of the students ran to ring the school bell. We were thanked for coming and the group was beginning to disperse when someone started to sing "La Marseillaise." Voices joined in, one after the other, singing quietly but with determination. I did too, while crying, when I could. As Remi wrote this weekend, we are all French right now.

When it was over, glances and nods were exchanged, a recognition. I fumbled for kleenex then my sunglasses and quickly put them on for this was not about me. This was and is about that feeling of solidarity, even amidst an extreme crisis, that I felt in the courtyard. 

I asked Madame F for permission to take a few photos of the drawings that the students had made in order to share them with you. C, who works at the school, had told me that some of the young ones had experienced difficulty in putting their feelings into images. But in words they wrote, "No to violence and yes to love"... "Not afraid"... "Grief"... "No to terrorists".... and... "We will not pull back in the face of fear. Liberty, Hope, Paris."

A beautiful young girl approached me just after I had photographed that last phrase. "Did you take one of that one? I did that!" Nine years old, ponytail swinging, eyes shining. I averted my gaze as I didn't want to confuse her with my clinging tears. "Bravo, tu as bien fait," I responded. You did good.



I don't know where the events of November 13th are leading us or how any of it can be resolved any time soon. I fear we are headed into a war, I fear we will be torn apart. I fear, I fear but also, I love. And I am very grateful to have been present at a moment of resilience in the midst of such chaos.


May we find a way towards Peace and may our hearts remain strong.


Sending much Love to you all from France,
With my deepest condolences to all who have lost or been hurt by this tragedy,
Thank you to all who have sent emails and comments of concern,
H.

63 comments:

Stephen Andrew said...

Good thing I'm not wearing mascara. A lovely tribute and it sounds and looks to be a lovely community. Sending your heart the the victims. I felt much the same way. Nothing I could do in concrete, but it felt good to send gestures and love in the universe.

Judith Ross said...

Standing with you, Paris, France, and everyplace else in the world that is hurting, which, to quote Warsan Shire, is "...everywhere, everywhere, everywhere."

Maria Anagnostopoulou said...

Peace and Love!

Maria Anagnostopoulou said...

"In the midst of winter, I found, within me, an invincible summer". I found this quote by Camus in an older comment of yours to Ellie. Exactly this!

Carolyn said...

Hoping the beautiful spirits of those children will prevail in this world.

Joan McKniff said...

Amen.

RebeccaNYC said...

I don't have the words, either. As someone who was here on 9/11 (as I think you were, too, Heather) I know this feeling all too well. I'm afraid. It's that simple. Sending you lots of love.

robin said...

LOVE the pictures drawn by children - their little Eiffel Towers and exclamation points with hearts. It's hard to imagine how this is explained to children, but their little drawings are filled with such hope and love! I'm glad you were able to go to this town meeting, to share the sadness with others. We are certainly sending you all SO much love and healing, and I, specifically, am sending beaucoup d'amour to you and Remi.

Loree said...

My heart is bleeding for France, for Europe. I would love to believe that love and peace will drive out this darkness. But I fear that it won't. Just as rhetoric and good intentions did not drive away the Nazis. I wish that someone, somewhere had an answer to all this.

simpleimages2 said...

I have lost words to describe what happened and how I feel.
All of us can pray for the grace of God.

Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura said...

The chidren's drawings express such courage and inspiration in this dark time. Our thoughts and support are with all of you in France!
Sending love and strength to you, dear Heather.

puppyfur said...

It's all so heartwrenchingly sad. I'm still in shock, and fearful, too. But we must get over that and move on with love in our hearts much like that in yours, Heather, and in the hearts of those innocent children, if we are to live lives that will be worth what they are meant to be. Easier said than done, I know. Sending love.

D A Wolf said...

Words have failed me since Friday night, over and over. Your words, your open heart, your fears so gently expressed that many of us share with equal parts determination to retain our humanity, the luminous clarity of what these school children have written... We nod in understanding, quietly, knowing that love will always be stronger than hate.

Thank you for being here with us, my brave friend.

xo

Julie Mautner said...

Heather thanks for this. I feel like I was there with you. I don't know if there has been any kind of gathering in St. Remy...I was told no...and I was hoping for one. I find standing together with neighbors, sharing our grief and our community, silent or speaking or singing, to be very healing and moving. Anyway, thanks for this beautiful story.

Rowan said...

What a terrible thing that these concepts have to be explained to children! It seems as if their childhood innocence is suddenly uprooted.
What a reassuring place to be, in a village. So you could draw comfort from and give comfort and support back to each other! Are we not all part of a larger, global village? There certainly seems to have been solidarity and support for France and her people over the last few days. I hope that we are not heading into something more devastating, as a result of this action carried out by a misdirected few.
Thinking of you Heather and sending love.
Deborah - Melbourne, Australia

Linda McMullan said...

Heather, thank you for this and for your transparency in your grief; for letting us here in the United States be touched by a soul of France. We are standing behind France; we grieve with you, and you have our compassion and belief in the future.

Natalie said...

Thank you Heather for finding words for this heartfelt tribute... I was standing there beside you sobbing...Feeling helpless but not alone. Sadness and fear are overwhelming.
Sanding much Love to you all from Canada.

La Contessa said...

BEAUTIFUL...........I send a BIG HUG to YOU!
XO

Karen Martin said...

Sending you and all of France, prayers and hugs. Much love to all of you from Texas.

Lorrie said...

Merci, Heather. The innocence of the hands that drew those posters is what's at stake. A beautiful tribute. Love and prayers.

Elena I said...

....PRAYERS and HUGS.

Judi of Little House said...

Beautiful! I'm so glad you were able to attend. Like so much of what people are feeling, it is all so bitter sweet! Love and strength to you and all of France.

Maywyn Studio said...

Prières pour la France

RebeccaNYC said...

oh! and I don't know if you have seen the footage of us singing the Marseillaise before the performance of Tosca on Saturday. It was amazingly powerful, and so many people were weeping openly. The cries of "vive la France" from the audience was especially moving. heres a link with a nice montage from all over the world: https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10153336715861939/

Marsha Splenderosa said...

Heather, I have thought of all of you so often, thankfully not in Paris last Friday. When we were finally aware that something beyond belief had happened once again all of our hearts felt the same cold chill we felt on 9/11. The West is strong enough to win this war, and war it definitely is, even though no country is involved, just brain-washed, drug-crazed maniacs who are led from childhood to this way of life. Education. Mothers. More important than war will be education and the women of the world. I am so angry! We seem helpless in front of these people, but you and I know we are not helpless. Our leaders must find a way to wage a winnable war with terrorists, not a "limited" war, but one which will finally put them down far enough that they cannot return. Thank God for all our friends and families, they are all praying for Paris and her people.

Heather Robinson said...

Oh Rebecca, thank you so much for this! I am so proud to know that your voice was amongst the many others of the world - what a wonderful thing for the Met to have done. I too was especially moved by the cries of "Vive la France". I am taking hope in strength where I can find it these days and this was a perfect example.

I was in Paris on 9/11 itself, it was my last trip over before moving. My sister was in San Diego visiting my parents. Remi was on one of the very first flights back to cover it and I followed a day later. I will never forget the shock of coming over the bridge from the airport to find the hole in the sky where the towers were nor, the smell of death, nor the fear, the fear, the fear. Yes, this has brought up all of those emotions for me too. I am sending you so much love right back.

Heather Robinson said...

Exactly. To try at least.

Heather Robinson said...

It is true, Judith - sadly it is true.

Heather Robinson said...

I came across that quote again yesterday Maria. It still feels like winter but I know that summer is there. I see it in the strength of the French people.

Heather Robinson said...

Beautifully said Carolyn.

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Sister. I love the force of what that little girl said, the bravery behind it as punctuated with exclamation points with hearts...amazing.

Heather Robinson said...

Loree, I just made an illusion to the Nazis too on Ellie's blog. It was another creed of evil that did nothing but create hurt. I hope our world can do better, more quickly this time. Too many lives have already been lost.

Silke Bauer said...

Thank You Heather, for this post! I still don't have many words for what happened. I still read the news constantly. French and German... I hope we'll take the right decisions now. It was good to see that people in a little village in the south of France are thinking about unity and not about political division. Like in January. I still like to travel to France! I think about you and Remi!

Karena Albert said...

Sending loving thoughts and prayer to all Heather. We will get through this with kindness and friendship.

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena
The Blink of an Eye

Jackie Clark Mancuso said...

je t'embrasse.

Heather Robinson said...

The words come and go for me, Edgar...and prayer can help, certainly.

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you so much Laura. Aren't they inspiring?

Heather Robinson said...

But beautifully said nonetheless. Gros Bisous.

Heather Robinson said...

Love will always be stronger than hate. I believe that too. There have been so many incredible tributes of loved ones lost who prove just that.

Heather Robinson said...

Julie, it helped me so much to have been a part of this, it really did.

Heather Robinson said...

Unfortunately, I fear that this is just the beginning Deb but I also believe in humanity that we will come together through it all.

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you so much Linda. The support and love all around the world has been so amazing. And while I am not French, I am sure it means so much to those who are.

Heather Robinson said...

It is so good to hear from you Nathalie. Merci pour ces gentils mots...

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you, wonderful friend.

Heather Robinson said...

xo

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Karen.

Heather Robinson said...

Yes, yes, yes.

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you, dear Elena.

Heather Robinson said...

It is a very challenging, incredibly sad time here, Judi. Thank you for your well wishes.

Heather Robinson said...

Merci beaucoup, M.

Heather Robinson said...

Marsha, I know that I should be angry but I am still too stunned to be so. And deeply saddened. But I am quite proud of how the people here have reacted so far and for the swift, important actions taken by the French government.

Heather Robinson said...

Yes and you know very well that this village is not always unified. It was a very powerful thing to see. And yes too to your return to France - we need you!

Heather Robinson said...

I hope that you are right, Karena.

Heather Robinson said...

Merci, Jackie...bisous...

vicki archer said...

Beautiful Heather... no words.. xxv

Judith Ross said...

And I am totally crushed by what we heard yesterday from Donald Trump (and you know much of the Republican presidential field here agrees with him) and the totally nonsensical reaction from our own Republican governor here in Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, who wants to close our state off to Syrian immigrants. Two things have been going through my mind in response: 1) Should I get out my sewing kit and start sewing gold stars on my clothes as a reminder? and 2) All the lovely, generous people who welcomed us in Morocco -- Muslims all. Your blog and Remi's gorgeous photos on Instagram are two things that have lifted my spirits. Merci beaucoup.

My Kentucky Living said...

I hate the terrorism for all, but mostly for the children. I saw a little French boy on tv telling his father that they needed to move á cause des mauvais gens. I worry so for the French children. I once lived in Aix en Provence as an American student., junior year abroad. It was wonderful! I love my France, its people and its culture. Stay strong! Many many Americans feel the pain of its French friends. Sheila

Heather Robinson said...

It is your land too, Madame V. Gros bisous to you and yours.

Heather Robinson said...

I know that they do. And people here in France know that they are supported and loved by people the world over. It helps.

Kerry O'Gorman said...

My daughter and son in law live in Paris and love the area where the shootings took place.They frequent the restaurants there often. They decided to have a quiet night in that Friday and I'm so thankful that they are safe but of course their fear is niggling at them even though they try not to give in to it. We have to remember that the perpetrators of these actions are criminals. We have to keep love and compassion in our hearts and clearly the place where you live has so much of that.
Also, these kinds of events will never change my view of Paris. It is a city of wonderful art, culture and amazing people of all kinds. One of my favourite nights was a picnic on the Champs de Mars, a beautiful July evening, the Eiffel tower bathed in sunset hues and scores of others just loving the moment and the place. J'taime Paris

I Dream Of said...

Heather, it's taken me a few days to come "visit" but you've been so on my mind in the past days. Truly, it's a struggle to put feelings into words right now, but of course, you've created something beautiful here, and I thank you. I've been looking and looking for things to lift my spirits in these dark days and it has been a tough search. These beautiful works of art, the perspective of children does my heart good. You are in there as is Paris... and France and the world. Love is what we can choose right now, I truly believe. The only choice really. Sending much to you. XOXO

Susan Athanasakou said...

A very moving post Heather, where will all this hate lead? A very scary thought, scary times.
Susan.x