I’m so sorry for the horror you went through yesterday. You suffered a massive loss, a painful wound. You were struck by a faceless enemy who thrives on inciting fear, who dwells in the shadows and strikes without warning.
The same enemy attacked my country. And I can tell you, your country will never be the same.
Your current generation of young adults will be profoundly impacted by this, in both good and bad ways. They will grow up fully aware life can be brutally taken at any time, but they will learn to appreciate it even more. The concepts of liberté, égalité, fraternité will take on a new meaning as this generation enters the workforce. You’ll see an increased interest in public service careers, in law enforcement, in government work. For many, this tragedy will impact the direction they choose for their lives.
You will develop an even greater appreciation for those who serve – not just the armed forces, but law enforcement professionals, medical professionals, first responders. While masses of people were rushing out, they were rushing in. You won’t forget that visual.
You will feel closer to your countrymen/women. Nothing unites people with the same intensity as a common loss, a shared tragedy. You’ll be talking about it with your neighbor, your waiter, the person next to you on the metro. You will feel united in your pain.
You will hold your loves ones a little closer, a little tighter, a little longer. You won’t want to let them out of your sight, but you’ll know you have to. Because as much as you wish you could freeze time and wrap them up in a bubble of safety, living doesn’t happen inside a bubble.
In the coming weeks and months, you’ll learn the answers you’re craving. You’ll discover who and how and why. The who will give you a direction for your anger, a responsible party to blame. The how will help you work toward preventing future tragedies. But it’s the why that will haunt you. Because there is no why sufficient to justify taking innocent lives. No why will be enough.
You’ll examine this tragedy from a myriad of angles, trying to understand it, trying to find some perspective. You’ll hear a thousand different opinions thrown at you.
If you hear nothing else, I beg of you to hear this: you cannot triumph over hate by embracing hatred; you cannot best terror by yielding to fear. It is only when you refuse to hate and refuse to fear that you render the faceless enemy utterly powerless.
Over time, in small degrees, this wound will heal. Your country will be whole again. But it will bear a scar, one that aches sometimes and reminds you of that day. Don’t hide the scar. Don’t fight the pain. It’s part of you now, a piece of your identity. A battle scar declaring that fear cannot destroy France, that evil shall not triumph here.
But how do you get there, to that place of healing? After you mourn your losses and find those responsible, what do you do next?
You live, sweet and beautiful France. You savor every breath and refuse to let fear alter your path. And with every step forward, every moment you embrace, you claim victory.
P. S. I forgive you for exiling my ancestor. You accused her of blasphemy and shipped her off to Louisiana. I’m over it, though. I wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t sent her away.