A few hours before the news of the Paris attacks started to appear online I was talking to a family member who told me she was heading for Paris on Sunday.
“Great,” I said. “I love Paris.”
She asked for advice on what to see and what to do.
“Just go where the travel books tell you. It’s all good.”
Who doesn’t love Paris who has ever been there?
Anne and I have been there more than once. By a twist of fate, my wife was born in Paris while her father studied art history.
In 1968 I was in Paris just after the student protests of May and June.
In 1991 Anne and I made our first trip there together. Our first trip abroad together.
And, as I said, other times since.
We chose to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary there.
The odd thing is that when I visualized the attack yesterday, the first image in my head was not of Paris. The image in my mind’s eye was from the film Battle of Algiers, when bombs went off in restaurants serving the French colonialists.
I also flashed on memories of walking the long outdoor market on the boulevard in the Parisian neighborhood of Belleville. Algerian men were selling fish, goat and couscous and flirting with my wife.
We would both be standing in front of the food stall, but they acknowledged only her. “Good morning, miss.” And I would smile.
I am smiling now at the memory.
I am reading posts on Facebook this morning from friends who are in Paris announcing they are safe.
My daughter’s neighbors in Brooklyn are on that list. Safe. Their children play with my grandchildren.
I can see Paris in my head.
But I cannot see Beirut because I have never been there.
I cannot visualize Damascus.
I cannot begin to imagine Baghdad.
This is making the rounds on Facebook this morning:
It is not Paris we should pray for.
It is the world.
It is a world in which Beirut, reeling from bombings two days before Paris, is not covered in the press.
A world in which a bomb goes off at a funeral in Baghdad and not one person’s status update says “Baghdad” because not one white person died in that fire.
Pray for the world that blames a refugee crisis for a terrorist attack.
That does not pause to differentiate between the attacker and a person running from the vey same thing you are.
Pray for the world in which people walking across countries for months, their only belongs on their backs, are told they have no place to go.
Say a prayer for Paris, by all means, but pray more, for the world that does not have a prayer for those that no longer have a home to defend.
For a world that is falling apart in all corners and not only in the towers and cafes we find so familiar.