The isolation of the big capitals like Paris from the noise of the atrocities that take place around the world strengthens that feeling of being out of the reality of our planet, but history always handles to hit you in the face and nail down your feet to the ground to make you react and understand that you are not untouchable anymore or anywhere, that we are living a historic moment of humankind and we must open our eyes to the cruel reality.
L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.
November 13th of 2015 in Paris was for me exactly one of those moments which arrived to shake my soul and make me understand the historic moment we are living in the world. One day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I decided to go out in the streets with my camera, to visit the places where the attacks occurred and sumerge my self into the crowds, melting my soul with the people of Paris in the middle of their reactions to this tragic event to try to capture in images all what I was watching for the next 5 days after the attacks .
I´m an immigrant in this country, I´ve been living here the last 3 years and still there are many things to learn and understand from the french culture, but these 5 days in the streets, living among the people, feeling their energy, listening to their talks, watching them, smelling the tragedy and touching the reality with my fingers have taught me more about them and about life than ever before since I put my feet on this country.
I walked all the places of the attacks: Le Bataclan, Le Petite Cambodge, Le Carrillon, La rue de la Fontaine au Roi and La Place de la République (which is the main meeting point for parisians to do protests) and I felt that heavy syrup of sadness slipping directly into my soul, spreading its bitter flavor from one person to the other in complete silence, a silence that speaks through the eyes of every person out loud, a silence of sadness but at the same time a silence of courage because Parisians are not afraid of these barbarians who want to eliminate the word Freedom as one of the core values of the french nation. It was very touching, specially because I have been at least one time in all of the places where the attacks occurred having a beer, a coffee or dinning with different friends, so I could not stop thinking: it could have been me!
One of the things that has amazed me about french in all theses days, is the way they have reacted to the attacks in general, instead of feeling afraid and staying locked at their places, they have been out in the streets, visiting the places of the attacks doing pilgrimage of mourning to accompany their compatriots, they have been in the terraces of the restaurants having a coffee or having dinner with their friends, they have been gathering to protest and to sing the songs of freedom and french nationalism, in summary they kept living their normal parisian life full of activity outside in the streets. Their reaction seems to represent very well the phrase of Mahatma Gandhi: “When there is a storm, the birds hide themselves and the eagles fly higher”, I guess is the legacy of centuries that this city has and that´s even written on their city shield: “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” which means “Tossed but not sunk”.
The attacks were a direct threat to the value of freedom that french have enacted and protected since the french revolution, a value that they have understood is the cornerstone of their society, for sure there is no better culture in the world than the french to understand what is the holistic meaning of the word Freedom. But these terrorist seem to don´t understand this about french culture and by doing this type of terrorist attacks, instead of sending a message of fear and submission, what they are achieving is to make a stronger union of french society against them, a union that is not afraid at all and the most important a union that is powered for the young people, the new generations that were the main victims of November 13th, a union that is joint together by the deep desire to defend that word Freedom.
Another thing that has impressed me about the french, is their culture to debate and specially in moments of crisis like this one. When you arrive to places related to the attacks like Le Bataclan or La Place de la République, you will find during the whole day groups of people that gather together to debate, not about what happened but instead about what they have to do now to change or overcome this situation.
French love deeply to debate, with ideas, with criteria and debate between two people, can easily evolve to a huge crowd of 20 or 30 people, where the word of every person that wants to speak is heard and respected and at the same time refuted by the ones that don’t agree in the most respectful ambience. I’ve seen in those debates people from different religions, social status, color of skin or education level exchanging their points of view and constructing a productive debate to advance to concrete ideas and actions. It shows the evolution of a society where the differences are accepted and can live together, an idea which is completely opposite to the idea of the terrorist of a society where there could only exist one way to think and live.
The flavor that remains in my heart, my mind and my soul after all these days being in the middle of the people and the places of the attacks is a flavor of bittersweet, a mix between the deep sadness, the immense courage and decision of the french people to show that they are not afraid and they will fight for their freedom until the end by keep living their daily life with no restrictions, which for me has been the first and most important kickback that the people of France has gave to the terrorist. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but what I’m really sure is that the seed for a change in the french society have been sown past November 13th and it will keep growing big nourished by the courage and freedom of the french society.
Here are the images I made in all these 5 days, hope they help you to understand a bit what I felt.