South Africans in Paris …

2015-01-13 00:00

THE cousin of Melanie Veness, Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO, Shannon Byrne (46), says the terror attack on Paris has united her, her Muslim friends and colleagues against violence.

Byrne is an administrator in a language school in Paris and has been living in France for 22 years now. Her family lives in Versailles, 20 minutes away from Paris.

“The Charlie Hebdo offices are around the corner from me. I was having lunch in a restaurant with my son when we heard sirens and saw police vehicles drive past,” recalled Byrne.

She said when the news came up on her iPad, she was shocked.

Every day last week Byrne went to the Place de la République to show her last respects.

“I went there to lay a pen every day. The streets are deserted. I think people are still in shock about what happened,” she said.

“The strange thing is that I have Muslim friends and colleagues, and we are all united against violence — that is what is moving about this whole thing,” said Byrne.

Former South African journalist Deon de Lange, who was among the one million people in Paris who marched for peace on Sunday, said yesterday the unity was palpable.

The peaceful march was to show solidarity for those killed during last week’s terror attacks.

“It was astonishingly very orderly and good-natured, given the enormous crush of people,” said De Lange.

He said while walking, one little girl, about eight or 10 years old, complained about sore feet.

“Her mother responded: ‘Don’t complain, you are projecting a negative vibe into the crowd.’

“ ‘Oh. Okay,’ the sweet kid responded.

“The mood was really positive and there was a tangible sense of unity,” said De Lange.

Brendon Funnell (32) of Gilletts is holidaying with his wife on a Contiki tour of Europe.

The couple, who are staying at the Ibis hotel in Porte d’Orléans in Montrouge, described the mood in France as “eerie”.

“It’s very quiet in the streets. There is an eerie, sombre mood. There is a high police presence and the sound of sirens is a common occurrence. All the tourist attractions are poorly attended and many of the smaller shops closed,” said Funnell.

Funnell and his wife were in Rome, Italy, when they heard of the attack at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

“Initially, I was shocked and also a little worried to be in a foreign country where there was a threat of terrorism — something we don’t have to consider in South Africa,” said Funnell.

Describing the march, he said: “The streets outside of the actual march are dead quiet. It’s very strange in fact to experience it. Most of the people made their way to the rally and so it was quiet everywhere else.”


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