Before I start I have to tell you all that this article has been the hardest article I have ever had to write.
Exactly a week ago today, the unthinkable happened.
Paris, my beautiful home and a city I love so dearly, was attacked by terrorists. Terrorists who brutally murdered 129 innocent people in cold blood. From 10.30 pm on Friday until 3am on Saturday morning we watched the horror unfold on our television screens while the city shook with shock and fear. There was a huge amount of confusion and uncertainty surrounding the events at first but when we eventually began to comprehend what had happened, the devastation washed over us like a tidal wave.
We couldn’t stop watching the news whilst friends and family messages flooded in – concerned, frightened and appalled by what was happening. Sleep was almost impossible and when we did in time, fall asleep, it was broken and uneasy. Our minds were working on overtime, going over and over what had happened, praying that this was some horrible nightmare that we would soon wake up from.
The next morning, I woke up feeling a kind of sadness that I have never experienced before. A sadness that was so profound that my heart physically ached with the pain. It wasn’t a nightmare, it had really happened. By the morning I had heard from all my friends and family in Paris that they were safe and that none of them had been hurt in the attacks. I thanked God for keeping all of my friends and family safe but I also prayed for the victims and their families who had been affected by these tragic events. We were totally devastated.
I’m not going to go into the who, what, where, why or when of what happened because if you’re reading this article, you’ve read the news, and you know what happened last Friday. I am writing this article because I wanted to express my love and respect for the people of Paris and my home away from home; France.
Since I moved to Paris in 2010, I’ve always thought of myself as an expat. I mill around among the French and I speak their language but in my mind I still feel like a Brit, a faux Parisian among the real, authentic versions.
I immerse myself into the culture wholeheartedly, embracing and respecting our cultural differences, but I still slip up (even after five years). I still cut the cheese wrong, I still drink my wine before the French say “Santé!” and I still mix up “tu” and “vous.”
I still go to Marks and Spencer’s every week to get English home comforts.
I’m still learning how to date a Frenchman and, thanks to him, how to really fall in love.
I’m still finding my way here in France.
BUT, I am no longer a faux Parisian.
The pain I felt (and still feel) after Friday’s attacks has been so profound and so strong that it feels like my heart has been ripped from my chest.
I realise now that even if I am British by birth and even though I am still finding my way, my heart is split equally into two parts. France and England – my two homes, my two halves, my two loves.
PRAY FOR PARIS. PRAY FOR PEACE.