Remembering the Good Times…Just Moments Before the Bad Times
You need to know that your beautiful letters of support overwhelmed us. Our sincere thanks to each and every one of you who wrote in with your heartfelt wishes in response to the Nice attack.
Saturday I sat at one of my favorite cafés in Paris watching the world go by while reading your emails in solidarity with Nice and France to stand up to these horrific terrorist acts of which we seem to have no control. The letters brought tears to my eyes, and while I was happy to be safe watching the fireworks in Paris, I now wish I was in Nice to be a part of that solidarity and grieve along with the Niçois.
We don’t have the answers to terrorism. There is a security guard now at every public door checking our bags and opening our jackets, but they didn’t count on a 16-wheeler coming from almost nowhere along the Promenade des Anglais plowing through the crowds like a bull in a china shop. There is always a new way of making a big terror-seeking splash, so while we are chasing after old methods — like taking off our shoes at the airport security check just because one hijacker in 2001 attempted to detonate explosives packed into shoes he was wearing (I actually saw a TSA official remove booties from an infant for this reason!) — the terrorists are conjuring up new ways of getting us “infidels.”
We might as well go back to living without fear and false security. Instead we should be putting all our time, energy, brains and money behind removing the potential perpetrators from our midsts. Walls, border checks, tough immigration laws, etc., aren’t the answer either. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the driver of the truck that killed 84 innocent people in Nice, was a 31-year-old Tunisian with residency in France since 2005. No wall, no border check, no immigration laws would have kept him away. He had a mild record for theft and violence having served six months in prison, but the authorities were not aware that he had ever shown any sign of radicalization. He didn’t need automatic weapons or bombs to create such incredible carnage — just a rental truck driven as if he was playing a video game. Can you believe it?
As I said in my recent Special Edition post, all the pleasure of the Bals des Pompiers and the Bastille Day picnic ending with fireworks was erased in a split second minutes after the fireworks ended with one phone call from a friend asking, “Are you okay?” I can barely remember the two days of bliss now that my heart is heavy with the grief of the Nice events, but I will try. Wind back the clock to July 13th and here’s how the story went:
We set out early to get a good place in line to enter the “caserne” on rue de Sevigné for the annual Fireman’s Ball, but the line was already around the block. The security was tight with barricades keeping us from getting near the station until the 9 p.m. virtual gong went off signalling entry. Patiently we waited over an hour, but the line moved only inches and getting longer by the moment. Of course, one-by-one people were entering after careful scrutiny.
A group of us opted to leave the line and head up to the Mairie of the 3rd Arrondissement instead where there was a band on a stage and an open street party — a “Bal Populaire.” Security was there sprinkled among the crowd, but there were no barriers to cross. The party was made up of neighborhood folks, young and old alike. The band was much more ‘our speed’ and had everyone dancing.
At about 11:30 or midnight, the windows of the Mairie opened and out flew bags of confetti which were caught, quickly opened and spewed out over the dancing revelers. The party was just beginning! We left long after midnight euphoric, tired, plastered with confetti and ready for bed in preparation for the next big day…July 14th.
Confetti continued to pop up in the strangest places as we showered, dressed and packed the rolling cart full of picnic food and blankets to spread on the Champ de Mars. As in the past, we headed there about 3 p.m., easily found a parking space at that hour and walked over to the field, only to discover it completely fenced off and closed for another few hours. Tight security prevented us from setting up our picnic as we have in the past.
To salvage our early arrival we opted on setting up at the Esplanade des Invalides on the east side for the best view of the tower. No, it wasn’t quite the same as being on the Champ de Mars, but under the circumstances, it had to do…and it was fine. In fact, safer as it was less of a terrorist target than the Champ de Mars. Friends filtered in slowly arriving in time for grazing the picnic goodies, drinking wine from Coke bottles and preparing for the fireworks at 11 p.m. (Security at the Champ de Mars was checking for wine and confiscating anything that looked and smelled like wine. Some Paris parks prohibit alcohol on the grounds, but not all.)
We had a large group with a half-dozen blankets spread out on the grass. The food was plentiful as was the conversation. Politics was a central part of that — as one might expect among Americans deliberating over the upcoming presidential elections. As the conversation got heated up, the sun went down, the Tower began to sparkle and we all got ready for the fireworks to begin.
They did not disappoint. Every year, the display seems to be more incredible than the last and worth the long wait on the grass. We oohed and aahed, screamed and applauded until the grand finale and the smoke drifted away. Then we packed up, said our good-byes and headed off in different directions. That’s when the phone call came in with the bad news.
The rest is history: a sad one. We can’t change the past. We can’t foresee the future. And we certainly can’t fear it. To reiterate my post of July 15th, “We cannot allow the fear to debilitate us. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural address, ‘So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.'”
I used to have a photo of this statement carved into a wall on my wall next to my computer screen. I believed it then and believe it now. Do not buy into the fear. Philosopher Eckhart Tolle, author of “The Power of Now,” writes: “The more you live in the present moment, the more the fear of death disappears.
I’d like to add, that once you remove the fear, you can can also live life to its fullest. Let us all live life to its fullest, for however long or short we have it.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(picnicking at the Eiffel)
P.S. If you wrote in and did not get a response, please forgive us for being a bit overwhelmed, but know that we read every one and greatly appreciate your comments and well wishes!
P.P.S. Don’t forget to watch our latest House Hunters International show airing today (and if you can record it for me that would be super nice!):