Fleeing France: “I had to do everything I could to keep my children safe.”

Yesterday Parisians held their heads high. Today I will try to do the same.

24 hours ago, the first of the six attacks began in Paris. It was an unprecedented, horrendous carnage inflicted upon the people of France.

We expected to wake up in Paris and find a city logged off. A city that was under the covers. A city that was taking some indefinite time out.

But do you know what they did?

They showed up.

They put on their game faces and they made their city — their country — proud. And now as I sit back in the comfort of my home far away — after fleeing their city in fear, I feel a little inadequate.

People waited in queues for hours to leave Paris today.

I also feel incredibly proud of the French people. I want to be French.


Today, in a place that was trying to come to terms with the senseless loss of more than 129 of their people, I witnessed incredible courage.

It was not the Parisians that were scared, it was the foreign tourists. It was us.

It was not the French that were panicking and trying to rush out of their country. It was us.

It was not the hoteliers, cafe operators and bus drivers that were hiding indoors in locked-down areas. It was us.

Do you want to know what the French did? They thrived. They helped.

They stayed calm and they calmed others down.

They changed bookings urgently and hired cars and booked transport.

They fed people and helped pack and carry the bags of the thousands of people trying to leave.

The police put on bullet proof vests and carried machine-guns and tried to make tourists feel safe.

They did not question our panic, or try to persuade us not to leave their beautiful city.

They did not shut down.

I saw the opposite.

I watched French people guide hysterical, crying foreign tourists to the front of the long, interminable queues to leave France.

I saw French hotel staff set up games and songs inside hotel lobbies to keep energetic children entertained whose frightened parents had been instructed to minimise their outside movement.

Fiona and her kids being entertained by hotel staff while Paris was on lock down.

I saw French locals help tourists desperately fumbling with self-ticketing machines and translating to English.

I experienced Parisian people with tears streaming down their faces for their own loss, continuing to work behind desks and helping others to leave their country.

We listened to a French boy stop and play stunning classical music on a public piano to calm the overwrought crowds in the train station.

It has only been one day. None of us can yet fathom what has happened. The loss. The scale. The way it was done.

It has been a harrowing 24 hours and I wanted to leave Paris. There was no question. I felt I had to do everything within my power to keep my children safe.

But from my eyes today, the French people showed me they would not let this tragedy destroy them. They showed me their hearts — but more than that, they showed me their guts.

Today the Parisians held their heads high. Tomorrow from when I wake, I will try to do the same.


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