Essentials to Build On
The author, Moira Allan is Pass It On Network’s International Co-coordinator Direct from Paris
I arrived back in Paris from Brussels* on Friday, one week – it seemed like months – after the 13 November attacks and the next day, Saturday, the Belgian government placed the city on maximum alert – no metro, no public gatherings, no sporting events, people advised to stay away from shopping centers and all other points of concentration.
Earlier in the week I had gone to the Gare du Nord in Paris to take the train to Brussels. We were all evacuated and left standing out in the wind and cold for 45 minutes while the demining team scoured the station from top to bottom – we eventually got to our various destinations.
The man I sat next to on the train was from Antwerp and as we neared Brussels Midi station he received an SMS from his wife warning him that Antwerp was the scene of police action against a reported terrorist stronghold.
In Paris, that day had started with non-stop live coverage of a 6-hour police operation in Saint Denis where one of last Friday’s targets, the Stade de France, is situated. Two people died. One was a woman kamikaze who blew herself up.
The night before I had been for my evening walk to the Eiffel Tower and, not unexpectedly, I found this most-visited monument in Paris all but deserted, except for armed security forces. She was all a-shimmer and splendid in her luminous gown of «bleu, blanc, rouge», and stood in all her light accentuated height making a solemn statement on the values of a free society.
What is there to be done in the face of this mounting, totally blind, uncontrollable, illusive and unpredictable threat? What can each and everyone of us do to be prepared?
I’ve been asking this question in my replies to the flood of messages received from around the world. Please send any suggestions you might have.
Here are the ideas that are coming through:
The most poignant comes a victim who lost his wife in the attacks.
- Antoine Leiris makes a call to resist hatred. His young wife was killed in the attacks. You will not have my hatred, he writes. We are two now, my son and me, yet we are stronger than all the armies of the world. I haven’t much time to write, he’s just woken from his afternoon nap. He’s hardly 17 months’ and he’s going to get up have a snack and then we’re going to play just as he’s always done every day of his short life and this little man is going to upset you because he’s happy and free. You will not have his hatred.
- From Lynda Smith in South Africa: Fear is what they want. Strength, grace and mercy are what are needed to Globally we are all victims unless we choose to focus on what we can control and become positive change agents.
- From Paris: Join the Red Cross. Learn what to do in times of need. Find out and integrate the civil protection system, build community support.
- From Cullen Hyashida in Hawaii: I think that your idea of building community is a good one. I recall that in Hawaii, our city and county of Honolulu government has a Civil Defense Department that provides training for communities to prepare for emergencies. The training is referred to as CERT Training – Community Emergency Response Team Training. I am sure that many other communities and countries have developed similar training to utilize community volunteers.
- Elizabeth Isle from the US: I love the idea of equipping people with first aid training so they can be of practical help in emergencies.
- Catherine Bergeret-Amselek, psychiatrist and author, interviewed in Notre Temps: Dramas of this intensity can make long buried painful memories resurge in the older population and fill them with anxiety about the future of their children and grandchildren. In the circumstances, it is essential to express ones feelings and to reassure the younger generations. This kind of tragedy stimulates a strong impulsion of survival and full realization of the importance of our basic values of freedom and also the simple joys of everyday life.
- Dr. Sylvie Royant-Parola, psychiatrist, also interviewed in Notre Temps, advises people to manage their intake of news and limit themselves to certain hours and not to stay tuned in to the non-stop replay of events.
- Jean-Luc Hudry, association Top Moral in Paris: Be alert stay aware and be part of a collective surveillance. Think of what to do and to whom you should report should you see something suspect.
Please help us. What would you do?
*I was in Brussels representing Old’Up, one of the most original, innovative and dynamic associations on the frontier of aging, at the Annual General meeting of Age Platform, the federation of some 150 age associations throughout Europe and their official go-between with the European Parliament. Big issues are older people’s rights, creating jobs for older workers and creating living environments fit for all ages. I will be writing about it.