Since we returned home two weeks ago, I’ve been planning to catch up on blog posts. After Ireland, we went to France, the Netherlands, Belgium, back to France, Switzerland, Italy, and then one last stop in France — Paris. So, my plan was to catch up on everywhere else we went and then finish with Paris.
And now Paris has to come first.
As soon as the news broke yesterday, I received messages and emails stating relief that we were back in the States and asking if I had connected with friends in France.
I wasn’t worried for the physical safety of my friends in France. None live in Paris, and the few who work/live nearby are at an age when they are much more likely to be back home on a Friday night than out in the city.
But I am worried for their mental safety. In some ways, I get it. I remember the shock of 9/11. I lived almost 3,000 miles away, but, like all of us, I couldn’t stay away from the news. I didn’t want to hear or see it, but I felt compelled to understand what was happening. I was in awe of the brilliance it took to coordinate a multi-site simultaneous attack and beyond ticked off to know that if only those behind the attacks had taken their amazing intelligence and put it to good, astounding things could have happened. Exactly the same way I have felt these past two days.
Yesterday and today, I sent messages to friends across France. I have not heard back, but I get it. They are reeling. And even more so because they have experienced this twice in less than a year.
And yes, I have read all those social media posts about not praying for Paris — we need less religion, pray for everyone, Paris is about life…
But I do pray for Paris. For a beautiful city so full of life that we reveled in just over two weeks ago. We all loved Paris, and it was a wonderful way to end our trip.
When Missa B asked these police officers if she could take a picture with them, they had no way of knowing how their life would change in two short weeks.
When JJ had Hubs take this picture, he had no idea that if we had been there two short weeks later, he would not have been able to go to the Louvre.
Had I thought about these possibilities when we were in Paris?
Yes, from time to time, I did.
I actually thought about it before we left in June. Known to only a few people at the time, I wrote three letters before we departed. I wrote one to my mom, one to my in-laws, and one to be posted on my Facebook page. I placed them in a safe and gave a close friend instructions on what to do with them should we not return from our trip.
The letters weren’t morbid in any way. I talked about not feeling sorry for us, about how we were getting to do something we dreamed of, and about how even though our kids didn’t get to fulfill their dreams, they got to do things that some people don’t get to do in their lifetimes.
And now I think about how all those people killed in Paris yesterday probably left behind unfulfilled dreams. They went out to enjoy a Friday evening and never got to come back. My heart rips apart thinking about it, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
As a result of the trip, Missa B and JJ have asked that we keep them up to date on world events, especially in places we visited. Hubs wanted to tell them about the massacre yesterday. I didn’t. I don’t think I’m trying to maintain their innocence — they were exposed to so much information about the World Wars and terrorist attacks as we traveled.
I think I’m just trying to protect them from the shock. From playing through the scenes that have been going through my mind…the what ifs. From wanting to do what both Hubs and I did immediately upon hearing about the attacks…going online and mapping the distance of the attack locations to our hotel, to the places we visited, to the bike route we took. From trying to make sense of why people who were doing the same things we did were suddenly taken from this world.
Last night, Missa B, who doesn’t speak French, crawled into bed and said the words she has said almost every night since we visited France:
“Bonne nuit, Mom; je t’aime.”
And, I responded as I have been doing, but with a much heavier heart, “Bonne nuit, ma petite, je t’aime aussi.”
And then I added, “J’aime Paris.”
“Yeah, Mom. Me too. I really love Paris.”