To Paris’ helpers, with love

When I heard about the attacks in Paris last night, my first thought was my friends. They come from all walks of life: journalists, musicians, authors, photographers. One is a tour guide, a yoga teacher; another is my underground muse. A couple are unemployed — and a couple more are retired. In spite of their diverse backgrounds, though, last night they all had something in common: They were in Paris, but I didn’t know where.

I spent hours sending emails and making phone calls, and grew more relieved with each response. By this morning everyone was accounted for as the last of my Facebook friends checked in. (Although it makes me profoundly sad that Facebook even has this feature, I’m also profoundly grateful.)

Friends marked safe BLOG

Then the rest of it sunk in: How would Paris react to this horror? Would the city be paralyzed by fear? Would there be a backlash of scapegoating and hate?

And … what would I tell my nieces when I arrived at their house this evening, loaded down with tubs of Nutella and little treats from my last trip? Children always want to know why. Why are there bad people in the world? Why would anyone do this? Why … why, why?

I’d asked myself the same question a couple of years ago when I stood in front of the Wall for Peace and gazed at the Eiffel Tower through the vandals’ shattered glass: Why would anyone do this? Why?

Eiffel 1060981 CL BLOG

That glass became a powerful metaphor this morning as I pondered the shattered lives, and some humans’ drive for senseless destruction. Why?

No one can answer this question; there’s no way to justify hate, or to explain madness. But at least I’ve found a way to answer my nieces, if they ask:

Eiffel Quote 2 BLOG

From the extraordinary heroism of the police and firefighters, to the kindness of ordinary citizens across Paris, today I’m turning my gaze toward the helpers.

May there always be helpers … and may peace one day prevail.


  1. This is a wonderful reply to the unanswerable question we all ask. Our hearts are broken but Parisians are strong and resilient. Perhaps we can partly support them by returning to the city and not letting fear keep us away.

    • I checked late last night, Paula, and I’m only 9,000 miles away from my next free ticket. Fear must *not* keep us away. Though I echo your broken heart, and your hopes that the Parisians will emerge from this strong and resilient …

    • Mr. Rogers was a pretty smart guy, wasn’t he? The older I get, the more I appreciate his gentle view of the world and his simple — but profound — wisdom. Thank you, Tom.

  2. Wonderful post, H. You put into words a profound hope for the future, (borrowed from no less a personage than Mister Rogers!): that we look to the helpers, not the cretins who are clearly full of hate. Your photos of the shattered glass are so appropriate, too. I’m glad you made contact with all family and friends! Vive la France!

    • Viva la France indeed, Sherri! And vive le Msr. Rogers aussi, with his wise words and hopeful ways. May peace and liberty prevail.
      Thank you so much for stopping by, and take good care.

  3. It’s hard to understand what took place in Paris on Friday night, but, as you say, the helpers always outnumber the others. Helping is the default human setting, isn’t it.

    I found a wellspring of hope in this photo of people filling in the paperwork to join a blood donation queue in Paris: I wish they didn’t need to be donating blood, but the comfortable mix of Parisians says a lot about the city. The actual blood donation queue is here – and it tells the same hopeful story:

    Glad to hear that your friends in Paris are all safe

    All best wishes

    • Thank you so much for sharing those beautiful images, Elaine. You’re right that they’re a wellspring of hope. I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love with Paris or her people …
      Thank you so much for stopping by. I do so appreciate your comments and insights.

  4. So beautifully put. It’s disturbing that a few violent people can create havoc that takes thousands of helpers to heal, tho. Thank you for being a powerful helper, always!

  5. Thanks for this, so many people helped others in such a kind and selfless way while murderers were perpetrating horror. Thanks !

  6. I’m so glad your friends are safe, H. My Parisien friends and family are safe too, thank God.

    This is such a wonderful quote to remember in dreadful circumstances. Someone else posted it on FB on Saturday, and it was so helpful. I used it when I talked to my boys about the awful things we were seeing on the news, and it gave us all strength and comfort.

    Do you know, it was weird, but watching/ reading the news (there has been saturation coverage on British tv), in all the shock and sorrow I began to feel a sense of warmth and love. I think if you tune into the group subconscious at the moment, there is such a force of determination that kindness, love, common humanity, are stronger than the hate. Peace. xx

    • Your sons are so lucky to have you for a mum, Kate, to help them navigate this tragedy. It’s a important part of being culturally literate in this age of ours, isn’t it … to learn how to process the barrage of images and information that come to us via the “24-hour news cycle.”
      But, like you, I’ve been heartened that the group subconscious does indeed seem to be radiating kindness and generosity and shared humanity. May love prevail.
      Peace, dear DB. xo

  7. I’m glad all your friends are accounted for and safe. I too have friends there and was relieved to see them both check in via Facebook. Of course the others weren’t so lucky; those we collectively grieve. Your photos are beautiful. I’m a huge Fred Rogers fan, and have shared that same quote at times like this.

    Malala said it best: guns can kill terrorists but education kills terrorism. She gives me hope.

  8. You put this beautifully. I am very glad to hear all of your friends are ok. we cannot live in fear of these horrendous attacks. we must not let them dominate us!

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