“Je Suis Charlie,” (I am Charlie), was chanted by the crowd as my husband Ron and I walked, shoulder to shoulder with over a million people through the streets of Paris, France last Sunday.
It was an experience of a life time. The emotion-charged “Million Man March and Rally” came just days after 17 people were slain and three gunmen were killed during several days of terror in France.
Participating in this historic event was really not on our agenda. We were on a subway train on our way to Dôme des Invalides, tomb of Napoleon I, when we realized we were on the wrong train. When we got off to switch trains we saw thousands of people pouring into the train we needed to be on. It was sheer madness as the subway train doors almost could not shut it was so packed. I could barely breathe. It reminded me of a typical train ride in Japan.
We found out all public transportation was free that day for the march. As we conversed with other passengers they strongly encouraged us to go to the march. We were unsure at first, for obvious reasons, but then we finally decided we would go and just watch from a distance. Before we knew it we were right in the thick of things. It all seemed so right and we felt safe.
What an opportunity to be in a historic and peaceful protest against terrorism! It was such a nice group of people. There were: dignitaries; celebrities; Christians; Jews; Muslims and thousands of police and military personnel. Also, there were people of all ages walking from senior citizens to young families pushing babies in strollers. Everyone was exceptionally nice and friendly. All that we talked to were so appreciative that we “Americans” were there walking with them and told us thank you over and over.
It’s hard to believe that we walked for over four hours without ever stopping. I guess it’s because it was such a pleasant and unique experience. The weather was perfect and the crowd was so up-beat and unified. They would sing their national anthem, we would clap and we would cheer as confetti was falling from the sky. But my favorite was all of us singing the old Beatles hit…”All We Need Is Love.” Honestly, I teared-up. … If it was only that simple. It was a touching moment and oh so powerful!
I have never seen more people at one time in my life. Every street that flowed into the Plaza de la Republica looked like it had millions of marchers on it. It was overwhelming. When we finally reached the Plaza, where everyone was congregating, it was a sight to behold. People had climbed all over the crowning statue there, which resembled our Lady Liberty, and were waving flags and singing.
It was a picture of power in numbers, peaceful protest and patriotism all wrapped up in one significant worldwide event. It felt good and we felt so honored to have been there.
But this special day did not end there. We heard beautiful church bells ringing in the distance and walked over to the breathe-taking Notre-Dame Cathedral. The church was packed with people. There we heard some of the Sunday evening service, an enchanting solo in opera and a chilling arrangement on the pipe organ with its 7,000 pipes.
This ancient cathedral is magnificent and is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. The sculptures, stained glass and soft illumination by massive chandlers were a dreamy vision. And to think it was built over six hundred years ago in the year 1345. This is a church building that has seen and heard generation after generation of people coming together and praying for peace for hundreds and hundreds of years. Not a bad idea … congregating and praying for peace!
Terri Guthrie travels with her husband, Ron, a pilot, all over the world and shares her experiences with The Cross Timbers Gazette readers. See The Cross Timbers Gazette Facebook page for more photos here.