Paris returns to work with defiance, determination and worry

2015-11-16 21:01
Eiffel Tower (AP)

Eiffel Tower (AP)

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Paris - After a weekend of horror, Paris returned to the routines of the work week on Monday with determination, defiance - and worry.

Rush-hour subway trains were full, shops were open, and office workers lined up for sandwiches or ate lunch on café terraces.

But this is also now a city dotted with makeshift shrines: carpets of flowers and candles, photos of lost loved ones and handwritten notes near the spots where gunmen and suicide bombers killed 132 people enjoying an autumn Friday evening in the city.

Parisians stopped by throughout the day to honour the dead, many vowing that their city would remain its incomparable self - the sensual, tolerant, life-loving metropolis of the world's imagination.

"I am afraid, but not enough to stay at home, not moving," said Stephanie Cohen, a bank employee from suburban Paris. "We have just to pray and say we are going to live - more and more and more."

Others worried that the attacks would change Paris forever.

"I was there [in New York] when 9/11 happened, and to tell you the truth it did change my life," said Gary Berrios, a student originally from New York. "It changed everyone's life. We don't see the world the same way anymore."

At the Place de la Republique in the heart of the city, a monument to France stood surrounded by flowers, candles and notes. Handwritten cards had been left in French and English, Polish and Vietnamese - a reminder that Paris is a city that the world has taken to its heart.

"Love will conquer," said more than one sign - a vow, or maybe a wish, from the City of Love.

Outside the Bataclan theatte, where 89 people died when attackers gunned down young concertgoers, a banner vowed: "Freedom is an indestructible monument."


There and outside the bars and restaurants where dozens more died, residents paused to lay flowers, light candles or simply stand quietly. Even as the bustle of everyday life reasserted itself, Paris was a city of thousands of silent prayers - and, with emotions running close to the surface, hundreds of heated arguments.

The attacks have unleashed a torrent of debate about France's essential values and its self-image.

Near the Bataclan, Parisians of all ages and races argued on Monday about the role of religion and the limits of tolerance. "Muslim killers!" yelled one man, who was largely ignored. An imam from a Paris mosque arrived to pay his respects, saying Muslims, too, are among the victims of the Islamic State group.

A man cycled by, pulling a baby grand piano. When he stopped to play John Lennon's Imagine, the arguments broke up.

Paris this week is a febrile place, easily moved to tears, compassion or panic. Late on Sunday, the crowds in Place de la Republique scattered in panic, scared by fireworks that sounded like gunshots.

By Monday, the mood in the square was once again resolute.

Even municipal information boards projected determination alongside emergency phone numbers, beaming out the city's achingly apt motto, "Fluctuat nec mergitur": Tossed by the waves, but not sunk.

Read more on:    france  |  paris under attack

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