By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard of the horrendous terrorist attacks that took place in Paris, France on Friday, November 13th. Attacks that claimed 129 lives as of the publishing of this post and injured countless others. I remember watching this story unfold, glued to my computer, constantly refreshing my browser to see the latest updates while my heart was simultaneously breaking. This place that I was fortunate enough to have visited earlier this year and fallen in love with was reeling from the kind of terror you hope to only see in movies, not witness firsthand. These attacks were the second time an act of terrorism struck Paris this year. If you recall in January, 12 lives were taken in the offices of the satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo. I remember when this took place. I felt sorry for the victims and their families and shook my head at the unnecessary loss of lives at the hands of extremist, but it didn’t quite hurt like these latest attacks did. It got me to thinking about why this was? What was different this time? Was it because the number of victims was greater? That’s part of it, but not entirely. What I finally settled on was that the reason it hurt more this time, was because I had been there.
I visited Paris for the first time in April of this year and it was love at first sight. It was my third stop on trip through Europe but it left the strongest impression on me. It lived up to all my expectations and exceeded anything I could have imagined. I was sold on this city and before I left I was already plotting my return. This is why these attacks stung a lot more. It’s like seeing someone you love dearly in pain and not being able to do anything to fix it.
In this moment I realized how powerful travel is. It’s not just about going from city to city country to country, collecting souvenirs and snapping your best Instagram worthy picture. Of course these are some of the perks of travel but the connections you have with destinations, whether international or domestic, are powerful. You visit these places that welcome you with open arms and you sometimes wind up leaving a bit of your heart there with its people. And that piece of you remains there even when you’re thousands of miles away. That’s my connection to Paris.
Although there’s nothing I can physically do, my prayers, thoughts and positive energy are with the people of Paris and the families who have to accept the loss of loved ones. The people left behind whose lives are forever changed. My prayers, thoughts and positive energy are also with the victims and families of the attacks in Beirut, Lebanon that took place the day before on Thursday, November 12th. An attack that claimed 43 lives and injured over 200 more. Unfortunately the media hasn’t given as much attention to this tragedy as it has the one in Paris and we all know why. Nonetheless, my heart mourns for the people of Beirut all the same and I hope and pray they know they’re not forgotten.
I don’t want this post to read as I can only feel sorry for the places I’ve been because that’s not the case. As a Black woman in America pain isn’t an unfamiliar feeling and this pain has reached Ferguson, MO and I’ve never been. It has reached Kenya and I’ve never been. It has reached Sanford, FL and I’ve never been. I’m just reflecting on what was different for me this time, in this instance.
When the dust settles and the headlines change, I hope fear takes its leave as well. I understand that this is scary and it may make you reconsider your travel plans and you know what? That is valid. I’m not going to tell you to get on that plane anyway and act like nothing happened because I get it. In a few days I’ll be headed on another trip and I won’t lie and say there aren’t a few extra butterflies in my stomach. But I will say this. Don’t allow fear to be a permanent hindrance. There is no way this amazing world full of beauty and magic was created for us to not see as much of it as possible. Do not let fear win.