Hope in Paris

Last Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, and the after-effects that have threatened and grieved the city since, have dominated the U.S. news cycle. And understandably so. If you live in Paris, though, it’s more than news; it is real life. Since the world can feel both large and small simultaneously, it seems almost everyone in the States knows someone who was affected by terrorism in France. For the Hope College community and one Hope student, that is indeed the case.
Junior Katelyn Kiner, a French and history major from Arlington Heights, IL, who is currently studying in Paris

Junior Katelyn Kiner is spending the 2015-16 academic year studying in Paris through the college’s IES program. Commonly, studying abroad means immersion into culture and language via the international classroom and daily living. Kiner—a French and history double major—is particularly fascinated by Versailles and the history surrounding it. To live more fully as a Parisian, she acquired her own bike upon arrival in the City of Light and uses it regularly to explore at length the garden and the park of Versailles.

Now, though, the attacks have given her ventures and scholarship in France a more intense and profound meaning. Kiner was only one mile away from the concert hall massacre at the Bataclan Theatre. After an initial short email exchange to reassure family and Hope friends she was safe, she crafted longer sentiments to Dr. Brigitte Hamon-Porter, associate professor of French, about what it means to be an American in Paris at this fateful time. Her fighting spirit and deep love for France are evident in her own words, published below with permission.

A peace symbol, Eiffel-style, drawn on the sidewalk outside of Kiner’s Paris apartment. Photo courtesy of Katelyn Kiner.

“Anyway, I’m okay.  In both the hopeless and hopeful sense of the word. Life carries on as it should and must and I am so proud of the city for that. Personally, there are moments of great hope when it all seems alright and then there are moments of great despair when you wonder how it could ever get better. I’ve written this email over the last day and I think both of those two sides come out it. The thing is I know it wouldn’t be any better if I was in the U.S. (I touch on this later), but I went through the same grieving process following Charlie Hebdo… Now I know it doesn’t matter if I’m 6,000 miles away or one mile away, I’m still going to grieve, because they attacked a place and a people I love and that is hard to come to terms with. But I’m glad I love this place and people, because without it, I would have missed out on so many moments of exquisite joy.

“This weekend I’ll go to a concert because there is beauty to be seen and heard and no sick men are going to take that chance away from me.”
“This weekend I’ll go to a concert because there is beauty to be seen and heard and no sick men are going to take that chance away from me. It will take time, but I’m on a good path and I’m surrounded by good people here and in the US. Things are getting back to normal here or perhaps it’​s just a new normal, but life goes on…
The re-lit Eiffel Tower this past Monday. Fluctuat Nec Mergitur means “It is tossed around, but does not (or will not) sink.” It is a Parisian motto first used by the city in the Middle Ages. Photo courtesy of Katelyn Kiner.

“Last night (Monday), they lit up the Eiffel Tower in bleu, blanc, rouge (blue, white, red). The tower has been dark after the attacks and I think to have her lit up again in those colors and with ‘Fluctuat nec mergitur’ written on the bottom arch was symbolic sign of defiance. With different people who have visited, I’ve gone to the Eiffel Tower/ Trocadero for them to take a picture. Usually there it is a whole mess of foreign languages (being spoken by the many visitors), but last night it was predominately French. The Parisians were out to commemorate and in the crowd there was a great sense of hope, because tonight the international symbol of Paris said ‘no’ to terrorism. ‘Il est battu par les flots, mais ne sombre pas.’  You tried, you failed. We’re not going anywhere.

“At this point I might just be a fake Parisian, but even so I’m proud to be because these people are amazing.”

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I love the quote on the Eiffel Tower being brought back. Tout le monde pense aux personnes en France, notamment Paris : )

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