The morning after the Bataclan, friends and family called and instant-messaged and skyped, imploring me not to leave the house. But I couldn’t stand being cooped up inside with the din of social media. I ran from Montmartre to Batignolles, just like I do every beautiful Saturday morning in Paris. The streets were deserted, the cafés closed, the usually thriving market stalls abandoned. I was completely alone. But I felt more acutely than ever that this was my Paris – even in darkness and sorrow, it was the same sunlight that touched the tears streaming down my face.
The next day, as I was leaving flowers at the Place de la République, I was stampeded in the mass panic of a false alarm as word spread through the skittish, seething crowd that there was a gunman prowling among the mourners. There were tables flung on top of me as I crawled along broken glass. For some time afterwards, I was not at peace in any crowd. Every night, I awoke with a shock of vertigo, dreaming that a truck had obliterated me as I rode my bicycle through Paris.
But as concert halls began to re-open over the weeks that followed, comfort and sleep eventually returned. We wept as Alexandre Tharaud played a haunting Goldberg Variations on the candlelit stage in the darkened hall of the Philharmonie. The crowd was anxious, but we grieved together as the music enveloped us.
Almost every day without fail since the attacks, I’ve rolled out of bed and ran up the treacherous stone steps of Montmartre to catch the first strains of the sun as they warm the Sacré Cœur. At that time, there’s no one there except the armed guards and the birds. That is the best peace I can offer myself every morning.