Paris, November 2015
This is difficult and emotional for me to write, but I felt like I couldn't blog about other things until I wrote down some thoughts about our recent trip to Paris; a trip that had me and Danny pretty close to the attacks that occurred on November 13.
We arrived in Paris from Belgium on the morning of the 13th. It was Danny's first time in the city of lights, so we quickly dropped off our bags at the AirBNB and then spent the rest of the day exploring as many sights as we possibly could before our legs gave out from walking up and down the Champs-Elysées. We saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe; it was a perfect day in the most dreamy city.
After our trek, we stopped back at the apartment for a quick rest and then headed out to a fantastic dinner at Le Mary Celeste. We drank and laughed and ate and planned what we would do the next day; Dan, who says he doesn't like to travel much, admitted to me how much he was loving Paris, describing the nonchalant, yet vibrant city, so full of life.
We then wandered around that neighborhood. Up and down boulevards, right past some of the cafes and concert halls whose names you all now know, looking for another drink or a slice of cake. Tired and indecisive, I decided I instead wanted to just go to bed. So we walked back to our apartment at around 9:30PM. The first explosions at the stadium happened around 9:15, gunshots in front of restaurants happened closer to 10.
Back at the apartment, I opened my computer to reports of the shootings, about a 20 minute walk from where we sat; the walk we'd just walked. Everything was uncertain. We didn't know who was doing this, what else was happening, when the death toll would stop climbing, when it would end. Once we began to see (what we now know were) false reports of additional shootings and snipers on rooftops, I began to shake and sob, asking Dan to turn off all of the lights and shut all the blinds. He kept me as calm as possible and tried to assure me that we were in the best place that we could be, given the situation.
That's how we sat for a few more hours, as I reached out to loved ones and them to me, to say I was "OK" or "safe." Neither word felt right, but compared to so many who weren't OK and definitely weren't safe, they were the words we had to use--words that meant "I'm not being held hostage," or worse.
All night long ambulances whizzed by, helicopters rattled the windows, and hushed voices of neighbors in the hallways reverberated through our walls. I had moments of feeling stronger, and then others of complete breakdown as I thought of those people who weren't OK or safe, people trapped in the Bataclan, and of people in other parts of the world who experience these sounds and feelings on a regular basis.
Eventually I fell asleep, a little less shaky by then. I didn't leave the apartment the next day, though Dan stepped out to get us some food. Each moment that passed let us breathe a little more, as assailants were identified, and no new horrifying events were announced. We watched TV together and ate a frozen pizza in our pajamas. We made plans to get home and tried to speak French to taxi companies which allowed us to laugh a little.
Our flight home was the next morning. Traveling back to New York was surreal. I didn't feel suspicious of others nor feel scared when our plane hit a bump. Instead, I thought just of the next step the whole time, afraid to think the words, "I just want to be home," like that could jinx it. Instead I thought, "I can't wait til the cab arrives," "I can't wait to get through airport security," "I can't wait to board the plane."
I learned a few things about myself in the process: I was surprised by how humbled and grateful I was to hear from every single person who reached out to me--whether it was someone I love, someone I once loved, or simply someone I kind of know. I felt equally as comforted by calm reassurances as I was by the honest words of fear from my loved ones. Knowing someone was scared for me made me feel so valued. I learned that you'll hear conflicting things during crazy times. I learned that the embassy doesn't change their voicemail message during emergencies--when you call late on a disastrous Friday night, the voice still says, "the embassy is closed. Our hours of operation are...." I learned that when someone you know goes something through something horrible, just tell them how you feel about them, but try not to talk of the future. The future can feel like the least comforting thing when the present is unpredictable.
I look forward to returning to Paris and I'll remember the beautiful day we spent there this November. I'll think about the beautiful people who were lost often. I'll toast to the present moment a little more heartily. Je t'aime, Paris.