Conquering Hatred in Light of the Paris Attacks


Elyse Desrochers: Studies in Paris, France, Currently

The evening of Friday, November 13th, 2015, I wake up from a nap to the sound of sirens. I check my phone, and the first wave of messages flood in, concerned friends and family from the US who know more than I do about what’s happening are contacting me. Up until then, that day had been my best so far in Paris.

Ours starts like most modern stories- with a swipe. Whether it be a swipe of the eyes or of the finger, it’s always a swipe for our generation. For us, it was a swipe of the eyes as we were waiting for our drink order at a bar in Central Paris. From the corner of my eye, I see someone tall with a mop of curly black hair approach the spot at the bar next to me. We talk, we laugh, and I’m hooked. It seems he is too. “I would like to see you again”, he says as a smile lights up his face.

We did see each other. And then we saw each other again. And again. After a week of discovering museums and movie theaters together, we are sitting along the Seine looking up at the Eiffel Tour and he says, -“Tomorrow, come on an adventure with me.”

-“What is it?”

-“Can’t say”, he replies.

I can’t get the adventure out of him. Not that night, not while making lunch together the next day, not even on the 45 minute long train ride. Finally, we head off the train and start going up the escalators. A flash of recognition hits me, and then I see the sign.

– “You’re taking me to Disneyland!” I say in astonishment.

– No, he replies, “I’m sneaking you into Disneyland.”

We spend the next 20 minutes going up to families leaving the park to see if we can use their tickets to re-enter. Finally, a nice British family lets us use their day passes.

Ecstatic, we rush inside the gates. First, we head to Tower of Terror. Next, we spend two entire turns on Space Mountain screaming until we’re blue. He beats me in a Buzz Light Year shooting range game by over 50,000 points. Laughing, he jokes, “Aren’t you Americans supposed to be good with guns?” After 2 hours of running around the park, topped off by a fireworks show, we wearily make our way back to the train. Upon my return home, I crawl into bed for a nap that will soon be interrupted.

A tragedy struck Paris, one that I am still trying to comprehend. I spent the evening of the attacks refreshing my Facebook feed and watching the death toll jump, first 12, then 18, then 40, 90, over a 100. By the end of the night, my eyes were glazed yet captivated by the screen as I read and watch what unfolded below me in the city that I have come to call my home these past couple months. Since then, I have been on Facebook quite a bit, and I often see posts about how Muslims are a problem.

My date was Muslim.

In the face of tragedy and terrorism, I remain committed to seeing the best in people, to never judging someone on the basis of their religion or of the few who abuse it to pursue their own selfish and heinous objectives.

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