A 2015 Global Travel Scholar Reflects on Terrorism in France

Isabella Olive is currently a Senior at Quaker Valley High School. As part of our 2015 Global Travel Scholarship Program, Izzy spent several weeks this past summer in France, with some of the time being spent in Paris. As a result of her time there, the recent terror attacks in Beirut and especially in Paris have had a significant impact. In her blog post below, she relays what we know happened in Paris, the international support that came of it, and her personal feelings as someone who spent time there and fell in love with the city.

paris_1The Paris Attacks on November 13th left 130 dead, hundreds wounded, and millions of hearts broken. The attacks commenced at 9:20pm local time when a bomb was detonated at Stade France during a match between France and Germany. Only five minutes later, 15 were shot and killed at two restaurants. At 9:30, another explosion occurred at Stade France. For the next three hours, more attacks took place throughout the city until around 1am. Citizens of France, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United States were killed in the attacks.

Members of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) carried out the attacks. The attackers were mostly killed from suicide explosive vests. One assailant, Salah Abdeslam, is on the run and is yet to be caught.

French President Francois Hollande decided to mobilize all forces throughout France in order to neutralize the terrorists. Hollande also decided to close the French borders as a precaution and defense to prevent further attacks and apprehend those responsible. France will be in a state of emergency for a month, but Hollande is urging lawmakers to approve a three-month extension of the state of emergency. Hollande is determined to eradicate terrorism and declares, “France is at war”. On Saturday November 14th, France bombed the Syrian city of Raqqa in an act of counterterrorism. The bombing was coordinated with American forces. The United States stands with France as Presidents Barack Obama and Hollande have met to make plans for a tighter alliance against ISIS.

paris_2Following the attacks came an outpouring of support from people all over the world. “Prayers for Paris” was trending on all platforms of social media. Each message of support was complete with emojis of French flags, crying, and hearts. Within 24 hours of the attacks, 70 million people had shared their support for Paris on Instagram. Artists around the world created symbols of peace and resistance, refusing to be defeated. Peace is the goal in most of the artwork, not war. Around the globe, vigils were created and building and monuments were bathed in red, white, and blue for the French flag. Included among these establishments are the White House, Christ the Redeemer, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. On Sunday November 22nd, Celine Dion sang a rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Hymne à l’Amour” for the people of Paris and perhaps for all of humanity as a reminder that love is the strongest weapon there is.

Among the millions across the globe writing in agony over the evil that precipitated that night, is this American. Thanks to the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and the Global Travel Scholarship, I was able to travel to France and achieve my dream of visiting Paris. The City of Lights is more stunning than words can even describe. To be in Paris is like walking through a painting. It is unbelievable how picturesque the historic buildings and remarkable architecture are. Parisian beauty and grace is only surpassed by its peacefulness. Never in Paris had I ever felt unsafe, not while on the metro or in the crowded streets. I felt nothing but peace and safety walking past cafes. I saw only love between friends dining along the Seine or kissing on one of the many bridges. This is what ISIS has destroyed. ISIS has torn the peace of mind that Paris possesses to shreds. This beautiful city of love and life has been scarred, the French people have been wounded, and ISIS is to blame. How can people choose to prey upon such beauty? ISIS has terrorized and frightened, but they have not won. The Paris attacks have not dimmed the light, but ignited a flame. This is a time for unity, because peace is impossible without collaboration. The art created after the attack illuminates how strong humanity is. It is obvious that the only way to peace is to band together and seek ways to end the pain and suffering. Humanity is not failing; it is just beginning to see the light. Reste fort. Stay strong.


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