Tuesday, November 13, 2018

This Date in History

~November 13~

Indulge me as I reminisce, combining world history with personal.

The year was 2015, and it was Friday. DS had just moved to Paris, France, to attend graduate school. With the help of a Parisian friend, we found him a small studio on an eighth-floor walkup, something a twenty-year-old can manage even if we wouldn’t want to. It was in a central and hipsterish arrondissement #2, on the right bank of the Seine River, next door to a lovely park and a famous patisserie.

I had a weekly skyping “date” with him, which he had set, every Friday at six in the evening, (for him) nine in the morning. (For me.)
We had just spoken, and all was well.

And then it wasn’t.

In a matter of a few hours, terrorist attacked Paris in various locations and when it was over, more than a hundred and thirty people were dead and a hundred more left in critical condition. Two of the attacks were very close to DS’s location, one only blocks away.

Our Parisian friend was able to call him and find him at home. He was not following the news, so she was his source of warning to stay put and not go out to a café or a stroll, something most young folks living where he was would consider a most natural thing on a pleasant night.

I was reminded of my growing up years in Israel, with traumatized American relatives calling every time Jerusalem managed to make the news. Often these relatives were the ones to let us know what had happened before we knew.

I’d be tempted to say that Paris changed forever, but it’s my understanding that it hasn’t. Like Israel, or New York City after 9/11, the city rebounded, and thus the terrorists lost.

And something else came back to my consciousness. It takes very few people making bad choices to wreak havoc, and very many people making good choices to fix it.

When storytellers construct stories, we usually weigh the protagonists and antagonists evenly, at least numerically. My limited experience in real life reveals otherwise.

Which means we, the many, must work harder if we are to make up for destructive impulses of humankind.


  1. What a powerful post. I think there are other dimensions to the numbers, though: As far as lasting influence goes, It only takes one Albert Schweitzer, one Mahatma Gandhi, On Martin Luther King, Jr. to outweigh the damage. It actually takes a lot of hateful people to destroy, only one to inspire.

  2. The few do seem to ruin it for the many, don't they? It's a sad fact. That's why I love meeting good people. Today, I spoke with a very nice representative at Amazon, and when I got off the phone, I was smiling because his positive attitude made me so happy. Happiness is contagious, which is why I say hello to every person I see in the course of the day. I just can't help myself. My daughter used to tell me I had a sickness because I can't NOT say hello to people or at the very least smile, but now she's the same way. :)

  3. Great insight! And how appropriate on World Kindness Day!

  4. As soon as I read Paris...my heart. Alas, if good people do nothing to stop the evil, it will persist. Terrorist attacks shouldn't be the norm, and yet it's becoming all too common.

  5. I'm very sorry for the individual people who are forever hurt by such acts of terrorism. For the vast majority of people, life moves on and they are unchanged. But for those who lose loved ones, sustain permanent injuries, are emotionally traumatized,...life is never the same again. And as there are more and more such acts of terrorism, I fear we as a people are beginning to take it as the norm and become desensitized to it. I find that sad and scary.

  6. Wow. You were there during that attack? That had to be awful! I can't understand why people do such horrible things.

    1. I wasn't, but my son was, and for the first time he was so far away from us... It would have been less stressful if I were there, I suspect. I grew up where many terrorist attacks took place.
      Except for those directly affected, as Evelyn noted, for most of us it's more flightening when hearing about it on the news. And no, we mustn't get used to it. But returning to functionality is the real triumph. This is exactly what terrorism aims to destroy.

  7. Worrying long distance is the worst. I'm glad your friend was able to check on your son.

    I remember that date very well. It was my friend's birthday; her surprise party was the next night. We took Echo to the vet that night and came home to hear the terrible news.