It wasn’t the trip we’d planned. It wasn’t the Friday night the majority of people had planned. A forgotten set of keys and what might have been.

We were in Paris the weekend of the terrorist attacks. Whilst deeply saddened, shocked and since troubled by it, we came home. Hugged by friends and relatives and helped through the weeks after at work by colleagues, we thank everyone for their concern.

Our thoughts were and still are with people involved and their families. I will remember the anniversary of 13th November in years to come.

Events in Paris that Friday circulated round the world unbelievably quickly leading to all sorts of issues. For us, it meant trying to contact family and friends to let them know we were safe without alarming them. Work colleagues were sending messages of concern too. We responded as best and appropriately as we could.

We’d been on the same street where the restaurants and bars were attacked a few hours earlier and were heading back to the station when it started.

On the Sunday we walked round the city. All public buildings and part of the Metro were closed. On hearing sirens or helicopters, people ran and hid. Many were crying and understandably there was a sense of angst and helplessness.

We stopped at a restaurant for lunch, sitting outside. A van pulled up across the road from where we were eating. The driver got out and ran off. I initially froze, looking at other diners. We were just about to run when police frog marched the driver back to the van chastising him and he drove off. 40 seconds that seemed like an age. Mrs J was inside when this happened. She came out, noticed I was a bit quiet but I didn’t mention it. The words wouldn’t come. I didn’t tell her for many weeks. Why would I? Nothing actually happened. Or so I thought.

Events like these impact many people in many different ways. But people didn’t just need to be there to be affected.

There were a few articles I read in the days and weeks that followed that resonated with my mixed up thoughts. They reflect on the use, and interpretation of use, of social media to signal and express views and feelings. Firstly by Helen Reynolds on calling out virtue signalling, then Sali Hughes on one-upmanship, one about capitalising on grief by Jessica Reed, this one on how social media shapes media coverage by Sulman Deb Roy and this one about learning practice by Julie Dryborough

Julie wrote the following and I’m quoting direct as it’s a perfect summary:

“At times like these, when my heart rages at injustices and weeps at loss, I could become overwhelmed and stupid. So I come back to the practices I learned through working dialogically:

Suspend Judgement
Actively Listen
Speak Authentically
Respect Others.”

I wish that was universal. Especially the last point but I guess that’s how the world is. None of us perfect, but hopefully learning.

I learnt a lot about myself that weekend and in the following months. I developed symptoms of anxiety. Some days I wasn’t able to walk between offices in the city centre without real difficulty. It took over two years to understand and cope with it and I’m still nervous of white vans.

That weekend wasn’t the right time for me to capture images of people interacting with places like I normally do. Apart from the header image that was.

It was taken discretely in the Metro. It felt awkward taking it but I made sure the girl carrying the flowers and any other passengers were unaware and I made sure not to capture her face. I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate but I felt I just had to capture the moment.

It brings a tear to my eye each time I see it and I still wonder what her story was and that she is coping with life.

So instead of pictures of people, here are some of a beautiful city.

One day I will return.

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