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There are no words. That is the cliché. But, there have to be words. That is what yesterday’s attack was about. Silencing our words. Now is the time to cry out. Those who believe in the freedom of expression must shout that we will not be silenced. Mosques across France are calling out for prayers of peace.


Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.46.41 PMThere are so many words about yesterday’s events and the world we have created. But today I want to bring you with me to the Place de la République last night, where 35,000 Parisians gathered to show their profound respect for those assassinated and their beliefs.


Getting out of the metro, the quais were disturbingly deserted. I had Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.46.49 PMbeen expecting a crowd. There was just the regular scene of commuters. Until I got to the exit, where armored CRS officers were directing everyone to use the exit at the other end of the station. That is where the crowd began. A person jam at the sortie, up the stairs and spilling on to the Place.


Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.00 PMScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.48.52 PMScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.42 PMIt had been very cold earlier in the day, but by evening the weather felt almost mild. The sky was an elegant dove grey with amber lights radiating form the buildings in gentle arcs. At 18h37 the place was packed but not quite a sardine Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.50.58 PMtin. I startScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.27 PMed in the near a kiosk where five people were on chairs, each holding a human sized poster of a black and white portrait of the four victims who had been identified, the fifth person in the middle with a CharlieHedbo sign.Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.50.45 PM

Weaving through the crowd, I made my way to the statue in of the Republique. There was a reason we were meeting here and not the Champs de Mars or the Hôtel de Ville, or an other large space in the city. We were not honoring war, or government, we were there in support of republican ideals, the ideals founded in ancient Greece, the French Republic established after the revolution.

It was a muted crowded, gathered for a minute of silence. As 19h approached, it was like having cotton in one’s ears, with only muffled conversations wafting by. Then there was silence. At 19h01 posters were unfurled from the statue and the crowd broke out into applause before shouting “Liberté d’expression”. These were quiet shouts. An oxymoron, and hard to describe, but most people had come to grieve and mourn and show the terrorist we were not terrified.Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.49.33 PM

There were women with tears streaming down their faces, a young group holding electric panels spelling out “Not Afraid”. While we could not shout, there was a collective need to share a gesture. A group had brought paper lanterns that they lit and released, golden warmth soaring up to the heavens. People started pulling out their pens, Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.51.12 PMholding them in the air, shouting in silence, “We are all Charlie”.

Today there is a call to light a candle in our windows for Charlie Hebdo. There is another gathering at the Place de la République, this time being held by the Mayor of Paris. And just now there was a moment of silence. I am writing this from my local café. The owner turned the lights off and the TV on to news station broadcasting the chimes of Notre Dame, ringing for the full 60 seconds as the chef stopped cooking and we all stood, honoring the words of Charbo, “I’d rather die standing then live on my knees.”

TScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.13.27 PMhe names of those who were assassinated yesterday defending our right to freedom of expression.

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20 thoughts on “JE SUIS CHARLIE

  1. Thanks for this Sylvia. My spirit was in Place de la Republique last night. I had few words that had not been said but posted Je suis Charlie on my facebook page. Just to show that I will not be intimidated by these madmen.

    In all concern people on facebook were urging friends in Paris to stay indoors for safety. And I understood thst fear. But I wanted to shout NO! … go out into the streets and show them we will not terrorised. I am so glad that parisiens went out and showed they would not be terrorised or silenced.

    The whole incident was even more poignant because it was so near to the Richard Lenoir apartment where we hsd a soiree in November. The poor injured policeman was murdered right there on thr boulevard near the metro entrance we used all the time.

    Micheal and I arrive in Paris on Saturday also not far from the scene. I will email you separately. Love Denise

  2. Pingback: Je Suis Charlie | Season It Already!

  3. We in Australia are holding up our placards etc and laying flowers in support of the French people and journalists. It is very sad but like you we believe we should not bow to this. Take comfort and strength knowing that the people of the world are with you.

  4. Sylvia – I was hoping that you would take time to respond. When I opened my email this morning, I saw your post right away. What a masterfully written piece! I shared it with some friends at work. When Dennis read it this evening, he was moved to tears.

    I did my best to support you and others who live in France by wearing my Eiffel Tower necklace to work. When people commented on the necklace, I told them I was wearing it in support of the people of Paris and their right to freedom of expression.

    Hope to see you at the end of May.

  5. I’m glad to see you posting a complete list of names rather than just focusing on the cartoonists. And we should remember that there will be living victims too. Corinne Rey who opened the door, those who are in hospital, some still in a serious condition. All the people involved, on both sides, had a clear vision of what they thought the world should be and a very particular way of achieving it. It is a lesson as much as anything that not everything is funny (although as Charlie Hebdo would argue, a lot more is funny than many people think) and that the world is full of strongly held opinions. We negotiate these opinions in ways that suit ourselves. Sometimes we are more effective than other times. It seems to me that events like this divide the world fairly simply into those who are angry and those who are sad. I fall into the sad camp. I don’t want to be sad, but I want to be angry even less. Anger produces fear and drives people apart and that can’t be a good thing.

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