‘Sense of unity’ across Paris

2015-01-12 00:00

HELICOPTERS hovered over Deon de Lange’s home in Paris yesterday as the state prepared for an iconic social movement yesterday.

The 42-year-old former South African journalist was one of more than a million people, including world leaders, who took to the streets of Paris to show solidarity with those killed in terror attacks last week.

The former political reporter living in France described how the recent events have united the nation.

“On the fringes of society there was an anti-Islamic response but generally there is a sense of unity and people won’t allow what has happened to create a division in the country,” said De Lange speaking from his home in Paris.

De Lange and his wife, Mariette le Roux (40) a journalist at Agence France-Presse (AFP), moved to France two years ago.

De Lange said he arrived at his office 10 minutes after the attack at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

“There was a distinct lack of panic,” recounted De Lange.

He said people kept calm and carried on with their daily duties but as the day went by the seriousness of what had happened began to dawn on them.

“I was in America when the 9/11 attack happened and people stopped everything to watch the drama unfold but here the atmosphere was different; people were calmer.

“Initially people thought it was just a shooting but we realised later that there was a massacre,” he said.

About four hours after the incident, he went to the scene of the massacre and again was surprised by the calmness in the area.

“It was just strange to me because if something like this happened in Johannesburg or Cape Town, everything would come to a standstill,” he said.

Meanwhile, Johannesburg businesswoman Nathali Mary (47), a French national who has lived in South Africa for eight years, said of her initial reaction: “I was shocked and still can’t believe what happened.”

On Saturday, she participated, along with about 300 others, in a solidarity march in Johannesburg.

“It’s really hard; every time I change the channel I get worried but we must continue to show solidarity and that what they did is wrong,” said Mary.

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