Yesterday was the 14th of July -- our National Day, or “Bastille Day,” as it is called in America. It was supposed to be the best day of the year: A day of commemoration and happiness, a day for everybody to go out and celebrate what it means to be French.
I was thinking about that Thursday as I was going to The Buffalo News, where I'm doing an internship. I was thinking about the fireworks, the music, the Eiffel Tower all lit up, the people celebrating in the streets, the parties, and the general feeling of joy and unity that fills everyone at this time of year. And I was a little sad to miss it.
I have lived in Paris my whole life and as far as I remember, Bastille Day was always memorable. But yesterday was a different 14th of July. Yesterday was another day of terror. When I got out of work, I saw so many messages on my phone. “Is your family okay?” “Thinking of you.” My heart felt heavy. This took me right back to Nov. 13, when I received those exact same messages after numerous attacks in Paris targeted young people who, just like me, were just having fun. I have never felt more powerless as I tried to talk to my family and friends back home and couldn’t reach anyone. Luckily, Facebook alerts started telling me that, one by one, my friends were safe.
The attacks in Paris happened as I was enjoying my first months of freshman year at Williams College in Massachusetts. I suddenly felt so far away from everyone. When I went home for Winter Break, everything had changed. My country became a super-secured place with guards everywhere, including in front of my sister's school and my former high school. There were security checks in front of big stores and military guards in the Metro. All of a sudden, there was fear everywhere.
In January 2015, I was finishing high school when the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo happened. I remember everyone feeling scared and shocked at school. A few days later, the students all gathered. With our bodies, we created a human sign: "Je suis Charlie." I am Charlie.
Now, it is happening again. This time, the attacks occurred on our National Day, in the beautiful southeastern city of Nice, which perfectly represents the warmth and joy of people from the South of France. Nice is a city that was recently home to some of the Euro Cup soccer games, and where Rihanna was supposed to perform this weekend. It is just a few hours away from where I spent all my holidays as a little girl.
I am writing this today to give the people of Buffalo an inside perspective on what it feels like to be French right now. I am hoping we can all show that we will not be afraid, we will not let fear win and we will stand united against terror.