Paris

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My heart goes out to the people of Paris this morning, its citizens and its visitors. I cannot imagine what you are going through. Life will have to go on, somehow. No matter how bad things are at this moment.

I didn’t hear of the despicable terrorist attacks on Paris until early this morning. The first mention I saw came when I checked my phone first thing. My friend Tash Pieterse – who is in Paris on a European holiday right now (and who I unfortunately missed when she was in London earlier this week) had posted a Facebook update to say she was safe. I am so thankful that you are OK, Tash. Take care, please. And safe travels wherever you are headed next.

Safe from what? I moved to Twitter, then the BBC News channel. The picture of what happened (and might still be happening as I type – Obama described it as still a potentially “live situation.”) formed quickly. See the FT’s report for a clear and concise summary of what’s known right now.

Social media and TV news are full of talk of terror, confusion, destruction and loss. But there is also humanity and hope.

Most importantly, the #porteouverte hashtag has been launched, as some Parisians generously open their doors to provide shelter and support to those in need.

My Twitter timeline right now is full of messages of moral support, sympathy and offers of help for those affected by the events of the past 12 hours.

People are calling for tolerance and understanding, and will do what they can to help the situation. My Twitter friend Tamzen Cohen shared the beautiful image I reproduce at the top of this post (which would appear to be the work of one @jean_jullien). My Twitter friend Hassanah Rudd has shared a beautiful text extract on “the indestructible soul of Paris.”

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Nobody wants to see what has happened in Paris happen. A tremendous wave of empathy, humanity and the desire to help can be seen today. Whatever the reason turns out to have been for the attacks, they cannot and never will remove what makes all of us human.

Life will have to go on, somehow. No matter how bad things are at this moment.

Update 1 (Saturday 14 November 2015): Be not inhospitable to strangers

I was delighted and relieved to see my Paris-based Twitter friend @marionchapsal reappear in my Twitter stream this morning, safe if shaken. But she reminds us that while so much good is being done around the #porteouverte hashtag, not all doors are open in Paris today.

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I love this next tweet from Marion, demonstrating that same indestructible spirit mentioned in the quotation above from Hassanah’s grandfather:

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And this RT via Marion’s timeline explains exactly how we should be paying tribute to the true spirit of Paris:

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This tweeted image of the famous Paris bookshop Shakespeare & Co from @Ruby_Stevens, meanwhile, pays beautiful tribute to the eternal message of love and trust that is manifested in #porteouverte:

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Update 2 (Saturday 14 November 2015): The bravest most powerful thing I can do

My very good friend Heather Bussing has a wonderful way with words. She has articulated perfectly so much of what I would like to say about the events in Paris and how we must measure our reactions. My gratitude and love to Heather for these words, and for her kind permission for me to quote them here:

I am heart broken by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Yet, this is our world. Righteous certainty is destructive no matter what you are righteous or certain about. The antidote is compassion and curiosity.

Yes, it is important to prevent violence, and to deter and punish terror as a civil society.

As an individual, there is also much I can do by staying open and seeking to understand what is, rather than demanding that others believe what I believe because I am scared and think I am right.

The world is full of pain, suffering, violence, and death. It always will be because humans get scared and seek security.

That very natural, human desire for certainty and security is the seed of violence.

The bravest most powerful thing I can do is to stay open and compassionate, especially when I feel powerless and scared.

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I reproduce the following from the Guardian’s superb rolling coverage of the events in Paris:

How to contact friends and family in Paris
The French government has set up a site to gather witness statements and report missing people. It is currently slow to load, presumably because of the weight of traffic.

Here is also a reminder of some of the embassy numbers in Paris for people who may have concerns about friends or relatives.

  • British embassy: +33 1 44 51 31 00
  • US embassy Phone: +33 1 43 12 22 22
  • Irish embassy Phone:+33 1 44 17 67 00
  • The Australian department for foreign affairs has set up a hotline for those who are concerned about Australians overseas on 1300 555 135. Those who are overseas can call +612 6261 3305.
  • The New Zealand hotline is 04 439 8000.

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