The City of Light, Dimmed

A typical Monday for me includes rounding up my prettiest photos and posting them on social media. I’m one of those folks who bought into the dreamy romanticism of Paris long ago, and it’s been a thrill to share that sense of wonder and discovery with like-minded people.

Obviously that dream has been moved far beyond our grasp at the moment. The city’s colors may still be there, but they’re muted. On this Monday, the City of Light has dimmed to a city of reality.

However I do have a couple of photos to share today, not despite the tragedy but because of it. Two photos I recently took, which were destined for no more than a quick Instagram post, have taken on a more profound meaning.

I took this one last week near the Canal Saint-Martin. It’s a neighborhood I frequent often: I give tours here, I sit in cafés with friends and family, and I’m currently researching addresses for a travel article. This antique hotel sign and cute little lamp seemed worth capturing:

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If you look closely there’s a small patch of maroon in the lower left-hand corner. It’s the neighboring café, Le Carillon. I had barely noticed it at the time–just an average place like you see on so many street corners. I took this photo on November 11th.

On November 13th, fifteen customers were massacred in cold blood in front of the same café.

Likewise, minutes before I had taken the hotel picture I was admiring a leaf at my feet:

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Two days later, photojournalist Philippe Wojazer captured the same sidewalks:

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On the right-hand side you can make out the same hotel signs from my first photo, with the same little lamp. Though I couldn’t have known it at the time I was standing on a future terrorist attack site. One that would live in infamy. It goes without saying that had the attackers decided to move their plans forward two days I could’ve been…well, yeah.

And there are certainly those who had closer calls than me: Ana, a friend and fellow tour guide, was asked to replace me on one of my tours because I couldn’t get a babysitter. That last-minute rescheduling forced her to cancel plans to see a concert at the Bataclan theater, the same theater where 89 people would later be gunned down.

But these tragedies should be about the victims, not the almost victims. In the end nobody counts in this story except them. So I want to share one more photo that’s been floating around. These are some of the faces that will never be seen again on the streets of Paris.

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Over this past weekend I told my wife a few extra times that I love her. I squeezed my baby girl a bit tighter when she flashed a smile up at me. I finally made that Skype call to my family overseas to catch up. And it was all in honor of those faces above.

One day soon Paris will find her feet again. Her colors will come back into focus. They always have. And I, like many others, will go back to sharing the charming and whimsical views of this city. A few pretty photos on social media may seem superficial in comparison to such a tragedy, and indeed they are. But I hope that in some way it’ll serve as a testament to the unshakable soul of Paris and the beautiful inhabitants that make it so.

That will be my intent, at least. I’ll leave with one last photo, something I made over the weekend using Rodin’s “The Kiss”. Take care everyone, and let’s take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are.  

 

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42 comments

  • Corey, I thought often of our Canal St Martin walking tour over the past few days. So glad to know you are well, and that through some strange act of fate, your fellow tour guide was spared as well. I look forward to my next trip to Paris!

    • Great to hear from you Joyce. I’m glad to hear you still have fond memories of that tour. Events like this always seem to touch us in some way, even if indirectly. It will take a bit of time but I’m sure Paris will bounce back. See you soon I hope.

  • Those “what if?” moments are sobering, aren’t they? Unfortunately, the tragic ones seem to be occurring much too frequently for too many people. We have become unwitting witnesses to new, man-made horrors in yet another dark period of history. Your post was a well-written and balanced perspective on the experience.

    On a lighter note–a babysitter? I had to re-read that sentence several times…a baby daughter? Oh, my–a lot happened after we left Paris! Congratulations to you and your wife. We’re so happy for you. “What if?” indeed–your little one saved a life. She is a reminder of what is truly important.

    • Yes Linda it’s true, I’m officially a papa! It’s exhausting but fantastic. Because of that I think this whole thing has hit me even harder. When I hear of victims leaving their young children behind, my heart breaks. Thanks so much for your comments and for stopping by.

  • Dear Corey,
    My heartfelt sympathies for the victims, their loved ones and everyone in France. Hopefully the City of Light will be shining again soon.

  • Thanjk you, Corey. The portraits from Facebook are a beautiful tribute. Thank you.

  • We left Paris just two weeks ago – thoughts and prayers with all there – we will return in the spring to the city we love so much.

  • Such a beautiful article, and in some way – you saved a life my friend. Thank goodness you could not find a babysitter.

    • Thank you. I keep reading about other stories that saved lives, like a couple who had a fight that night and decided to cancel their evening plans. I guess you never know when there’s a blessing in disguise.

  • Yes, your article filled my eyes with tears as I have also walked those streets during my stays in Paris. I used to go the La Poste and the HSBC close by the Bataclan and frequented the bistros in the arrondissements. I pray together with a lot people that Paris will one day re-emerge as the City of Lights and I praise the courage and spirit of the Parisiens. Bon courage a tous. penny

    • Thank you Penny for the encouragement and optimism. I agree with you; Paris is too extraordinary to be crushed by such ignorance and hate. It will, and always has, endured.

  • Wow Corey! You have touched your reader’s hearts. I am sure that you will be an instrument in helping restore the light in Paris.

  • We stand united Corey. A candle burns here in Virginia for all the victims in Paris. Thank you for this lovely post and update of your city. So glad you and your family are safe and well. WE all must live each day as if it were our last. Nothing should be taken for granted…ever.

  • Pleased to see your pictures, comments, and insights. It’s a long, long way from Memorial School. Well done!

  • Thank you for this wonderful blog post. Keep that joyous spirit.

    Viva Paris.

    Great to know that child your were expecting at the time you were so considerate of my wife and I was a girl.

  • Words cannot say …
    Thank you for your post. It brings back such terrible memories of 9/11 here. Sending peace and light to you all and beautiful Paris,

    • Funny you say that, I was also a New Yorker during 9/11 so I know exactly what you’re talking about. And I can tell you it’s almost exactly the same kind of ambiance…for now. Once we’re able to put a few months between ourselves and this horrific moment, the city will begin to heal itself. For now there is still a strong feeling of solidarity and remembrance of those lost, which is vital. Thanks so much for reading. 😊

      • That solidarity extends around the world, just as it did here in 9/11. I’m going to take a peek at another of your beautiful photographic posts, and then settle down and address the jumble that is currently my desk. :-)

  • Your photographs illustrate more than your words, the poignancy of the timely coincidences you write about, and of being in the right or wrong place at the time of those heinous atrocities. Words cannot express the horror or the anguish so I will just say, I join with all who rejoice in the safety of you and your family and offer prayers for the victims, and condolences to those who mourn their lost ones.

    • Thank you Maureen, and thanks once again for sharing my post. 😊 As you said there is simply no explanation or logic to these sorts of things, and the futility of it all is deeply saddening. All we can do is continue to live our lives with even more vigor and passion. That is our most powerful weapon. Thanks for your comment.

  • I understand you’re a Mainah??? Me, too! And my whole family was 50 feet from the first bomb at the Boston Marathon.. Shaken but survived it – saw things one should never see… There but for the Grace of God. Lovely tribute piece.

    • Hi Bella, thanks for commenting. Yes indeed I’m from lobstah country. My oh my I can only imagine the impression that Boston left on your family. I’m sorry to hear that. Life is fragile, that’s for sure. I’m so glad you stopped by to read and leave a comment. Take care and if you’re still in the northeast, stay warm!

  • Thanks Corey for your sensitive and well-thought article and also the wonderful picture with Rodins’s “Le Baiser” personifying the City of Love.
    Keep in touch!

  • I just learned of your blog from reading BONJOUR, PARIS and will read it in the future. I’ve been travelling to Paris for many years and was in Paris on November 13, 2015, staying at a hotel in the third arr., just 1/2 mile from the Bataclan, watching the tragedy unfold on TV. It only strengthened the bond I feel with Paris and its people. I’m planning to return in March! It’s always wonderful to find others who love Paris as much as I do.

  • So sorry I hadn’t read until tonight … I am so touched by your beautiful post, and as always, it is thoughtful and poignant. J t’aime Paris … forever!

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