The Hotel de Nice sits at 42 Bis, Rue d’ Rivoli, in Paris’s 4th Arrondissement. It’s a fashionable part of town, from what I’ve read; I just liked that it was easy to get to Notre Dame and the Musee d’ Orsay. The Rocket Scientist and I stayed there a couple of times, and we joke that it is “our” Parisian hotel. When we went to Paris in 2008 with the kids, we stayed further out, in the 10th Arrondissement, near the Metro station. I spent my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in Paris, eating dinner at a small bistro on the Left Bank.
I have walked streets in a lot of different parts of Paris. It is a badge of honor to me that I have driven in Paris, too, the reputation of Parisian drivers notwithstanding. (In all truthfulness, I find the drivers in Madrid to be crazier.)
The Alexander Bridge and the Eiffel Tower figure prominently on my sidebar. I didn’t just put those pictures up this week, either.
Paris, as a city, matters to me. The attacks of last week hurt, because it was Paris.
All of us claim cities in our hearts. In some cases, it’s because we have lived there, in some cases because our memories of that place bring us happiness or insight.
On my Facebook page, I have friends who decry people, like myself, who are more upset about the terrorism in Paris than the suicide bombings in Beirut or Baghdad. We’re Eurocentric. We’re racist.
Maybe. Part of my reduced interest in Beirut and Baghdad comes from outrage fatigue: although the loss of lives there is tragic, and all lives lost to terrorism are to be mourned, the Middle East is an unsolvable, violent, puzzle. Yes, Lebanon has been relatively stable, but still, Beirut is a lot closer to the epicenter of all of this than Paris is. Am I being ignorant? Probably. Eurocentric? Possibly. Racist? Maybe.*
But … Paris. Paris has become a city of my heart.
Terrorism occurring in Paris makes me sad in a way I would not be had the terrorists attacked Vienna or Berlin. I would have been almost as sad had the attacks happened in Amsterdam. (I was sad when London was bombed.) I would have been sadder had they happened in Seville.
I would have been absolutely devastated had a terrorist attack of this scale happened in Madrid.**
It is the same in the United States: I was heartbroken by the Boston Marathon bombing, but I would have been very much less upset had the bombing happened in Dallas. I have heard about Dallas; I have lived in, and loved, Boston.
I would feel the same pain about an attack in San Francisco, or D.C., or Atlanta. Or New Orleans. Or anywhere in the state of Florida.
Cities of the heart claim us. Paris has claimed me.
And so, I stand with the people of France, because you have given me the grace of your great city. May God bless you and keep you.
*The Paris attack reminded me of the attacks in Mumbai, which filled me with absolute horror. Like Paris, there was a feeling that “these things don’t really happen there.” So, it is not merely a matter of skin color.
**The Atocha train bombings happened in March, 2004. I first visited Madrid in September. The bombings made me sad then, but if something similar happened today my heart would break. As bad as the Paris terrorist attacks were, the Madrid attack eclipses them: 191 dead, 1,800 injured, the worst terrorist bombing in Europe since the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.