PARIS — Parisians gathered on Friday night, the one-week anniversary of last week's terror attacks, to mourn and remember the dead. But this is Paris, and the impromptu gatherings were as much a celebration as anything else, a signal that life here will go on.
Both after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher market in January and now after last week's attacks in which teams of ISIS-connected terrorists killed at least 130 people and injured more in a series of attacks across Paris, Place de la République has been a gathering place for Parisians to reflect and pay tribute to the dead. "Je Suis Charlie" signs from January are still visible on the statue of Marianne, the symbol of the French republic.
At Place de la République, hundreds of people milled about the memorial surrounding Marianne. A large group gathered around a set of speakers and danced to cheerful, up-tempo Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson songs, some with drinks in their hands. "Fraternité!" one of the dancers shouted. "Fraternité, mes frères!"
Nearby, a man sat next to a peace sign made of tealight candles, making sure that none blew out in the wind. Passersby often stooped to help him. Later, after the dancing crowd had moved on, a lone man set up his own speaker and began singing; first John Lennon's "Imagine," then a series of songs in French.
Another group wandered about offering hugs to people. Zacaria Be, 38, offered a hug to BuzzFeed News.
Be said he came to the square after seeing on TV that people were gathering at Place de la République. "It's a rallying place for expressing solidarity with the rest of the Parisian population," he said.
"I felt ashamed," Be said of how he felt the night of the attacks. "I said to myself, once again, in less than a year, there were attacks again."
"Normally people don't talk to each other," Be said. "But since people came here to be in solidarity, to be together — to embrace, to give hugs, it's nice."
Séckouba Diakhaby, 35, and Bouba Koné, 42, stood nearby, both wearing stickers that said, in French, "the Republic against fanaticism."
"We can't just stand idly by, we have to show our solidarity to all the families of the victims and to the entire French republic," Koné said. The attacks, he said, made him feel as if "they'd snatched away our liberty. That could have been us."
"France is a land of welcome," Diakhaby, who immigrated here two and a half years ago from Senegal, said. "It's a land of hospitality."
"I am French," Koné, who is originally from Mali, said. "I'm not of French origin, but even so, in my heart I felt French from the moment I started my life here."
"I would defend this country to my last drop of blood," Koné said.
The mood was a bit more somber outside the Bataclan venue, where 89 people died on Friday when attackers opened fire in the middle of a concert and then took hostages, killing people trapped inside. The club is blocked off by police barriers, but the show by the Eagles of Death Metal, the band who were playing when the attacks occurred, is still advertised, an eerie reminder of what happened that night.
A large memorial of flowers, handwritten signs, and candles has sprung up across the street from the Bataclan. So has a piano, around which people gathered on Friday night as others took turns playing melancholy tunes. A man stood nearby selling flowers for people to lay on the memorial; when a BuzzFeed News reporter had forgotten her wallet, he gave her one anyway.
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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