After yesterday’s massacre, the streets of the Marais were unusually quiet today, despite it being the normally very busy lunch hour.
My favourite Boulangerie was closed, but for most, it was business as usual as I approached Petit fer a Cheval.
A couple of weeks back I met a nice Australian couple at one of Jim Haynes Sunday Night Dinners. We had decided that given my hobbling, we would meet in the Marais, as it was closer for me to get to.
I found them seated at the back of the cafè with a bottle of red wine, already settled in.
I prefer to sit in the front of the cafè and watch the world pass by outside and observe the goings on of the café and convinced them to move.
We snuggled around the small green table and the toasty warm heater.
A long lovely lunch, a couple of bottles of wine and great conversation, learning a little more about one another, was a nice way to spend the afternoon in such a somber city after the aftermath.
We had learned that a female police officer was killed this morning but perhaps, not related. The news was sketchy at this point.
Good news was, that the French Police seem to know who the gun men are, two young men, brothers, in their early 30’s.
After lunch I led the Aussie couple through the nearby village of Saint Paul.
Although I had heard reports of police and army guarding the large monuments, we didn’t see one policeman during our short stroll.
My friend Julien joined the masses of people last night, who gathered at Place de la République for a vigil for those murdered at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
All of Paris, gathered around the city, today at 12 noon.
Some in front of the Notre Dame, where the bells rang for 15 minutes, some at République and some at their places of work, to stand in silence for the lives lost.
The Aussies wanted to go to République tonight but wanted to arrive for 6pm.
My friend Julien wouldn’t be able to make it until 7.30pm and I wasn’t sure that I could walk the short distance with my broken toe.
I made a snap decision and caught the metro to Republique. The metro seemed remarkably quiet for that time of the night but the platform at Republique was packed and I wasn’t sure if this was due to the ‘manifestation’ or peak hour commuters.
Police guarded the entrances and tunnels of the metro as I made my way through, searching for the correct exit that would bring me up to the large recently renovated square.
Thousands of people were gathered in Place de la République, I am not sure if I have ever seen this many people gathered in one space before. It was overwhelming.
TV cameras, satellite dishes, placards screaming out JE SUIS CHARLIE and pens and pencils held high in the air.
A symbol for the murdered journalists.
The atmosphere was quiet and calm and yet at the same time electric, with a sense of solidarity.
I heard my name and spun around, the Aussie couple!
We couldn’t believe our surprise to find one another amongst the masses of people.
There was a clearing near the stone wall surrounding the metro entrance and I took the opportunity to stand by it to protect my foot from the crowds, by the time I turned around, the Aussie couple had disappeared, swallowed up in the sea of people. They were gone.
From way over the other side of the large 34,000 square metre space, a slow clap began and slowly moved closer and closer to me, like a giant wave, as the clapping got louder and louder and faster and faster, goosebumps prickled my skin.
This wasn’t an organised event. There were no loud speakers, no one directing what people should do.
This is an age old French tradition. Parisians know, if you want to make a statement, you meet around the 9.5 metre high bronze statue of Marianne, symbolising the allegory of the Republic.
She holds high, in her outstretched right hand an olive branch, representing peace and in her left, a tablet of the rights of man. She is the icon of freedom and democracy against all forms of dictatorship.
Carved into the base is the French Republic moto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
And this is the chant that swept through the crowds, building in momentum. Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
Later, followed by; Charlie is not dead, Je suis Charlie.