Today I am drinking coffee from my Paris mug while remembering clearly all the streets I walked along in August. It was my 4th trip to Paris and I felt the changes. Homeless sleeping in tents along the Seine, a police presence everywhere, even in my residential neighborhood. Beggars outside the McDonald’s just up the street. A change of population, of ethnicity, of economics, of politics.
It didn’t change the beauty of Paris. The Parisian light is the same as when Degas painted in Montmarte. The bridges along the Seine, the night glimmer from the Eiffel, the fun loving city dwellers dancing, walking hand in hand, and picnicking by the water every Friday and Saturday night — all of that was unchanged.
I was never along the streets that were attacked on Friday. But nothing is very far in the condensed city. I wasn’t far when I sat at a cafe after visiting the Picasso Musee. I wasn’t far when I walked the Pere-Lachaise Cemeterie . I wasn’t far when I hiked around the lake at Parks de Buttes-Chaumont or had lunch beside the Bastille.
Nothing is far in Paris. You can walk anywhere in an hour unless you go to the suburbs.
And so … I feel that I was there. That I stood close to the people who died last night in Paris. My heart breaks for the families and friends who lost loved ones.
My friend and the woman from whom I rent the Paris apartment was in Normandie. I heard from her this morning. She is safe but afraid — particularly afraid that she may have lost students in the night club and the bar and the restaurant and the soccer game. I pay that she did not.
I’ve had a few emails saying “glad you are not there”, and yet … for some strange reason, I wish I were. I’ve grown to love Paris after so many visits. No matter how often you go, you can’t see it all unless you live there. But I’ve seen a lot. I can visualize myself walking in the Jardin des Plantes. I can see myself on Blvd. St. Michel shopping. I can close my eyes and hear the water splashing from the fountain in the Tuilleries gardens. I can taste the cafe au lait at Deaux Magot.
I will drink my coffee from my Paris mug and will eat a croissant in honor of the City of Light and pray for the people and for our governments who have difficult decisions to make in the days ahead.