Paris, much like any glamorous big city, is desirable, yet destitute. As tourists, we often fail to recognize the tragedies these cities bare within themselves, and often, we ignore the hardships all foreign nations have faced. We often believe that the vacation spot is some sort of a paradise, simply because it differs in build and culture when compared to our homeland. It is true that many Americans continue to see Paris as paradise, even one year after the historic terrorist attacks of 2015 that struck the city.
I truly love Paris and France, in general, and I adore the French and their unique character. Twice, I have been to Paris, and it is a wonderfully cultured and extremely artistic city, full of the kind of life I seize to find in my hometown. I am captured with awe by the Haussmann architecture and the men and women who will pass by me, with such elegance, in their tailored work uniforms, flaunting classic, sought-after designer brands from head to toe.
It is so very hard to look away from these ever so knowledgeable and classy people, but occasionally you catch a glimpse of a fourteen-year-old girl standing at the corner of a street, lighting a cigarette, and the facade of the perfect city falters. We forget that boy who approached our taxi asking for money, unbenounced to us that he was a Syrian refugee. We attempt to distract ourselves from the negative. After all, we are on vacation, why should we be bothered by the ill-tempered events occurring around us?
I made my second trip to Paris this past summer, exactly 8 months and 17 days after ISIS had conducted multiple attacks on the city. The attacks included a bomb going off in Saint- Denis, near a qualifying match for the UEFA Eurocup. At a Eagles Of Death Metal concert, shots were fired into the audience, killing 130 and leaving 368 wounded. A third attack took place right by a street cafe, where victims had been shot at as well. At the time, my French teacher for the past three years had been in France, visiting her mother. Frantically, we had e-mailed her, asking if she was okay. In our minds, we pleaded for an immediate answer, hoping for her safety. A few days later, the tragedy had far from left the headlines of all global newspapers. I watched a TV-report about the victims of the attack, some of which had still not been identified. Interviews with the victims’ families were scarce at that time, since the attacks had taken place just days ago. After some weeks, I heard that France had declared a State of Emergency, which was to last for a year. They increased military presence, especially in Paris, but also throughout all of France. Tensions remained high for many months in France, and in a considerable amount of the world. It was a hard thing to overcome, and to this day, over a year later, people all over the world mourn the dead and for those who underwent the absolute horror of the attacks.
In Paris, 8 months and 17 days later, I was keen enough to become aware of the scars that had been left behind on every Parisian after November 13, the most devastating day in many of these people’s lives. I noticed that soldiers had been stationed at the busiest street corners. They smiled at bypassers and gave off a sense of security, but of course, I wished there were no soldiers, for the attacks on November 13 are the sole reason for which they had even been put there in the first place. They were the grave reminder of the tragedy had occurred here, in Paris.
So, we ask ourselves: Why did ISIS target France? Experts say the location played no part. ISIS had but one goal on November 13: they wanted a big target, and they wanted to kill as many innocent people as possible, simply to inflict fear upon the Western World. The evil do it best, scaring people. They have the most reckless stratagems- this is what makes them the ‘bad guy’. France, among other European nations, had been taking in Syrian refugees, and although this may be reason for the attacks, it could only play a minimal part in the goal.
The Paris attacks, among other strikes conducted by ISIS, emphasize a challenge Europe has faced during this century- the self-destruction of the Middle East, especially Syria. This has lead to the Arab spring and the emergence of ISIS, not only in the Middle East, but also on European soil. The chaos of the Middle East has lead to the conclusion that a country that is at war with one another cannot fix itself- it instead depends on the governments of the strongest nations nearby, in this case: France, Germany, England, and many parts of Scandinavia. These countries have contributed to the crisis by letting thousands upon thousands of Syrian refugees into their country, which has lead to more complicated relationships with several nations. The Assad regime, Russia (an ally of the Syrian government), and especially ISIS play the main roles in this strained relationship and the overall chaos in the Middle East. ISIS wants supreme power and an extremely strict Islamic state on a worldwide level, and they believe that such can be accomplished by using fear tactics, like terrorism.
The French are so full of life, that they have risen above the fear and continued to flourish as a nation. 8 months and 17 days later, I sat in a cafe, and I looked around, only to notice this assertiveness the Parisians have developed. The streets were lively and crowded, 8 months and 17 days later. We went to a bar and spoke with a lovely French server about the Europa cup, and he had laughed and joked. We found that, 8 months and 17 days later, the French people, inspiring the world, proved that at cruel times, we can, indeed, carry on.