The 12:13 from Gare Du Nord left on time, and we sit in the carriage, with a mixture of feelings- anxiousness, relief, sadness, excitement, and above all gratefulness.
Arriving on Friday 13th, in one of my favourite cities in the world, I was so excited for what I had planned this weekend with my wife to celebrate her birthday.
Dinner on the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland Paris, and then a day of sight seeing on Sunday.
We had a beautiful time on Friday, with dinner at 58 Tour Eiffel, and then a lovely walk around the neighbourhood. Missing our train was a godsend as it meant we got a taxi back to our hotel in Port Des Versailles without venturing towards the hotels and bars affected by the attacks.
I woke up at about 7.30 knowing that we had a busy day ahead of us in Disneyland Paris -and saw about 100 missed calls on my phone over night, and my immediate thoughts were- is everyone ok back home??? Little did I know that we were caught up in worst attacks of terrorism in decades in Europe.
Feeling very on edge, and a little confused we called the embassy and asked the hotel about our options. Turned out that Paris was on lockdown so we were stranded in the hotel and surrounding area.
We couldn’t keep our eyes from the news, even though we didn’t want it to pull us closer into the feeling of sadness we were already keeping at bay.
We spent the next day walking, talking to locals, trying to spread smiles and compassion to a people rocked twice this year by violent extremism. I wondered, would the people pick on me given that I have slightly middle eastern features? How much do they know about other cultures? The backlash of 9/11 on people of eastern heritage was terrible, would the Parisians be the same?
Much to my surprise – no they seemed more comfortable and understanding with us, making conversation, and trying to make us, clearly tourists, comfortable.
I have grown fond of Paris, and the people here. I hear the stereotypes of the French “arrogance” for my fellow Brits however, I find people are innately filled with love. They just want to enjoy life, watch their families grow and earn to provide for them. I see them as my own. This, I feel is synonymous with all people, I cannot help but feel warmth for all.
Leaving Paris, a warm, eerily quiet city today (Sunday) I feel a sense of connection to the beautiful city. I feel I have left a part of my heart in Paris.
A city I love for so much, now a city in mourning. I leave a piece of my heart for the people of Paris, because we were just there, because people do not deserve to be treated like that, because we neighbour them.
I saw the resilience of the Parisians, their defiance against what was, and their strength for what will be.
Paris, you have kept a piece of a fathers heart, and I will never forget 13/11/15.