I don’t remember where I was, but I remember getting the Facebook message.
Mom: Are you okay?
Me: … yes …? Something wrong?
Then another message and another. Before I knew it, I was busily typing away to all my friends who were also studying with me in Paris. The shooting rocked the city in a way I never could’ve imagined. Seeing all my Paris friends post on social media that they were safe was bizarre in a way. It was a good method to check in but it stood in stark contrast to all the other happy, perky photos and silly quotes posted by the rest of my social circle.
Just when I thought the tragedy couldn’t any get worse, while visiting near Vincennes two days later, heavily armed militia boarded my Metro car. My friends started getting calls and messages and the entire ordeal began again.
This is my daughter’s recollection of the three days of terror that rocked Paris in January of 2015. At that time she was a student at École internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq.
On January 7th, the shootings began at the Charlie Hebdo offices in the 11th arrondissement, or district.
Charlie Hebdo is the French magazine that was targeted for its disrespectful depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.
When I learned of the attack I scrambled to remember where she would likely have been at the time of the shooting. Was her school near the Charlie Hebdo offices in the 11th? Why couldn’t I remember what arrondissement her dorm was in? I frantically used my computer to look at a map of Paris to kick start my memory.
Was she at her dorm? Why wasn’t she texting me back?
Being in class all day she was unaware of the shootings that took place the morning of January 7th, until she read my Facebook messenger text.
I was relieved when I finally received a response back from her. She was fine — nowhere near the 11th. As grateful as I was that she was alright, I was devastated as I continued to follow the news closely.
I mourned as I learned the details of the deaths in the building that housed the Charlie Hebdo offices, which included five cartoonists, a copy editor, two columnists, a building maintenance worker, a bodyguard, a police officer, and a travel editor who was visiting the office.
A 20-minute walk away from Charlie Hebdo’s office, art director Joachim Roncin was leaving a meeting at his office at Stylist magazine when he learned of the attack. He and his coworkers gathered together to read the reports that were surfacing on Twitter. I can only imagine the emotions I felt were dwarfed by what they felt as they learned the details.
In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Roncin said “I looked at this, and thought, ‘This is part of me. I am Charlie.'”
“Roncin, who designs Stylist’s weekly covers, felt he wanted to say something that would pay tribute to the dead rather than simply repeat the facts of their killing. “(Groll, 2015)
He tweeted the following:
Two days after the attack, CNN reported that more than 5 million tweets using the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag were posted (Goldman & Pagliery, 2015).
“Within two days of the attack, the slogan had become one of the most popular news hashtags in Twitter history. Je suis Charlie was adopted worldwide, was used in music, displayed in print and animated cartoons (including The Simpsons), and became the new name of a town square in France” (Je suis Charlie, 2019).
When French president François Hollande announced the Republican marches would be held on January 10th, my daughter and I discussed the pros and cons of attending via Skype.
“Should I go?” she asked me.
I was torn.
“As your mom, I should tell you to stay in your dorm and be safe. But honestly, if I were there I would have to go” I replied.
“I wasn’t sure if it was safe to go to the march. Everyone in Paris was afraid that there would be another attack. I called my family and everyone had different opinions.
In the end, I decided that going was more important than anything. Standing up for freedom of speech in person is more powerful than the computer keystroke.”
Although I was worried about the possibility of another attack during the march, I was proud of the decision she made. Her act of solidarity made me very proud of the young woman she had become.
“French government officials estimated that the rallies were attended by up to 3.7 million people nationwide, making them the largest public rallies in France since 1944, when Paris was liberated from the Nazis at the end of World War II” (Republican marches, 2019).
With the help of social media, Paris and the world united together with a single voice to express their grief and reinforce their belief in the right to express their opinions freely.
“If 9/11 made global viewers of us, the massacre in Paris was the moment when online media was where readers gathered” (Martinson, 2015).Embed from Getty Images
On January 7th, 2015 I came to appreciate social media on a whole new level. Up until that time it was a rarity for me to write a post, but that day with a few keystrokes I shared my grief. I was connected to the world community in a way I could never have imagined, and it was a powerful feeling.
“Je Suis Charlie was tweeted at a rate of 6,500 times a minute at its height following Paris massacre” (Whitehead, 2015).
Whether you like it or not, social media has become an essential part of our lives. There simply is no better way to put one’s finger on the pulse of world events. The speed at which we can share news with the world via social media channels greatly surpasses traditional media in any form.
Unlike many of my contemporaries, it took me a long time to warm up to this new way of communicating. But when my daughter moved to Paris, things changed.
In my own small way, my post of #JeSuisCharlie allowed me to stand with others as we showed our support for freedom of expression and the continued fight against terrorism.
Going forward, social media will continue to provide the platform the common man uses to ensure our voices will be heard. Let’s stand together in unity and pledge to use it kindly and wisely.
until nxt time …
Charlie Hebdo shooting. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Charlie_Hebdo_shooting&oldid=912679993
Goldman, D., & Pagliery, J. (2015, January 9). #JeSuisCharlie becomes one of most popular hashtags in Twitter’s history. Retrieved from: https://money.cnn.com/2015/01/09/technology/social/jesuischarlie-hashtag-twitter/index.html
France24. (n.d.). Four years after Charlie Hebdo attacks, satirists bemoan the loss of reason. Retrieved from: https://www.france24.com/en/20190107-four-years-after-charlie-hebdo-attacks-satirists-bemoan-loss-reason-france-anniversary
Groll, E. (2015, January 19). Meet the Man Who Put the “Je Suis” in the “Je Suis Charlie.” Retrieved from: https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/19/meet-the-man-who-put-the-je-suis-in-the-je-suis-charlie/
Je suis Charlie. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Je_suis_Charlie&oldid=909323771
Martinson, J. (2015, January 11). Charlie Hebdo: A week of horror when social media came into its own | Jane Martinson. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jan/11/charlie-hebdo-social-media-news-readers
Nelson, L. (2015, January 9). The Charlie Hebdo attack, explained. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/2015/1/9/18089104/charlie-hebdo-attack What is the Charlie Hebdo attack?
Reuters Photographers. (n.d.). Je suis Charlie. Retrieved from: https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/je-suis-charlie
Republican marches. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Republican_marches&oldid=893182921
Ritter, L. (2019, August 26). Personal interview.
[Sky News]. (2015, January 10). Paris Attacks: Three Days Of Terror. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnyZ_RIhjzY
Smyrnaios, N., & Ratinaud, P. (2017). The Charlie Hebdo Attacks on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of a Political Controversy in English and French. Social Media + Society. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2056305117693647
The Media Octopus. (2015, January 8). #JeSuisCharlie hashtag unites the world on Twitter. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/@themediaoctopus/jesuischarlie-hashtag-unites-the-world-on-twitter-7be9bfc237fe
Whitehead, T. (2015, January 9). Paris Charlie Hebdo attack: Je Suis Charlie hashtag one of most popular in Twitter history. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11336879/Paris-Charlie-Hebdo-attack-Je-Suis-Charlie-hashtag-one-of-most-popular-in-Twitter-history.html