Thu Sep 13, 2001 | day 3
After three days in Paris, traveling around has become a bit like the game Frogger. The similarities are quite striking. I, the frog, find myself dodging vehicles left and right. When I reach the bus/metro/RER (logs), I jump from one to the other until I reach my destination.
However, today I did not have too many destinations. I spent most of the day wandering the Latin Quarter - finding peace among the old, civilized buildings. As I am sure your city is, the effects of Tuesday's events is one of security and mourning. Most of the government buildings I visited were either limited in their access, or closed to all tourism.
I visited the U.S. Embassy where people have made a make-shift shrine. Hundreds of flowers, notes, poems, and candles line the barricades that now encircle the Embassy. I left a note myself: "Think before retaliation" The security was so tight around the Embassy, that if one of the many tourists pointed their video camera toward the building, one of the many armed police officers would blow their whistle and have them turn their camera away.
In the afternoon, I was still feeling down about the whole situation and I wished there was something I could do to end my sadness and remorse. I tried to do just that by going to a special service at The American Church in Paris at 6:30pm. I heard about it from an American couple and they said it might be a good thing to go to. It seems every American I talk to brings up the incident and it almost makes my want to steer clear of other American tourists. But I agreed and started across town to the church.
I arrived at the relatively new (1800's) church at 5pm. I soon learned from other Americans in line that this was more than just a "special service." In attendance were all six leaders from the monotheistic "houses of God" in Paris. Dr. Larry Kalajainen (Pastor of The American Church in Paris), M. Jean-Arnold de Clermont (Pastor and president of the Protestant Church of France), Rabbi Joseph Sitruk (Grand Rabbi of France), Dr. Dalil Boubakeur (Muslim president of the Mosquee de Paris), Pere Michel Evdokimov (leader of l'oecumenisme) and Jean-Marie Lustiger, Grand Cardinal of the Catholic Church of France (the same who lead the service last night at the Notre Dame.) This type of meeting happens only once in a lifetime.
Oh, and did I mention all of the delegates and French leaders who were there? Including the President of France, Jacques Chirac?? I didn't? It must have slipped my mind...
It wasn't until I entered the highly secured church that I realized two things: that I was extremely lucky to be here (only 300 people were allowed in) and I was extremely underdressed. The very last thing I removed from my 50 pound bag before I left the US was a collared shirt. It was too heavy and I thought I would never really need it. But I looked... ok... in my dark green pants with zip off bottoms and my Eddie Bower rain jacket (zipped up to conceal my California t-shirt.)
The service was extremely moving. Each of the church leaders said something to help releave the pain and sorrow and to express their condolances. (only one did so in English, however) Many of the Americans I talked to in line have lived in Paris for more than a year - so there were very few like me - a wetback American fresh from the boat... er... plane who did not comprehend the whole service.
At the end of the service, after the president left and people began to get up to leave, someone in the audience began to sing "God Bless America". By the end of the song, those who were not visibly emotional certainly were now. The whole service caused everyone to have a good cleansing cry that was needed by all. I left renewed.
I am now back in the Latin Quarter, my favorite hang-out here in Paris, ready for another full day of playing Frogger. I will talk to you all soon, as long as I don't get squished by the passing cars. :)