Terrorist attacks on Jan. 7 at the Paris offices of a French satirical news magazine, Charlie Hebdo, have stunned France. Twelve people died in the assault, including the editor of Charlie Hebdo and two police officers.
Following the first attack, there were two separate hostage situations on Jan. 9. Three of the suspects are dead, along with four hostages.
French teacher Richard Day said he does not regularly read Charlie Hebdo, which focuses primarily on politics and religion.
But the magazine can be “quite vulgar and offensive,” he said.
“They lampoon everybody,” Day said. “No one is sacred.”
Day said that Le Canard Enchaîné, another satirical magazine, has a wider readership than Charlie Hebdo and is not as offensive.
“There are times when Charlie Hebdo is really tasteless,” he said.
While it might not have a big readership, Day said that Charlie Hebdo is part of the French fabric. “Everybody’s familiar with it,” he said. “It’s an institution.”
Day thinks that this recent situation has “clearly hit a vein with the French.”
In school, the French strive to develop a critical mind, he said. They’ve always been vocal.
“It’s their freedom of expression,” he said. “To strike at that is like striking the core of what their society is built on.
“To fully appreciate your freedom of expression, you need to push the limits.”
And that’s what Charlie Hebdo staffers did, Day said.
“They were very courageous,” he said. “They said they wouldn’t be silenced.”
Jessica Laskey, ‘04, lives with her husband in Paris, where he attends graduate school. It is incredibly tense and sad there, she said.
“There’s a pall that’s settled over the city–the streets in formerly bustling areas are eerily deserted–but at the same time, an intense energy has seeped in,” she said.
Grace Mehta, ‘11, who is spending a semester abroad studying at the American University in Paris, said the city has shown incredible solidarity. At mass public gatherings, people held signs reading “#jesuischarlie.”
According to Laskey, there are police everywhere and thousands of people in the streets.
Laskey said there are many people paying tribute to the lives of the Charlie Hebdo staff at the Place de la Republique, a city square where people have gathered for protests throughout the history of Paris.
On Thursday, there was a national day of mourning.
“The country came to a standstill,” Day said.
Standing up for principles of freedom and showing solidarity are important, Day said, adding “I think it’s a great healing process for people.”
“The widespread mourning and condemnation of this barbaric act of violence tells me that it hit close to home for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s good to see people overlook petty differences and come together.”
Day said he’s pleased with the response from everybody around the world.
Mehta participated in a moment of silence for the victims of the first attack in Luxembourg, where support is also being shown.
This whole situation felt very close to home for Day due to his ties to France because of family, friends and the years that he spent there.
While the city is showing its support, daily life has continued, according to Laskey.
“It’s almost like nothing’s happened,” she said, “and yet you can feel the tension in the air.”
Laskey’s husband receives updates on his phone from major newspapers around the world and updates her on developments in the situation.
“It’s all been like living inside a nightmare, waiting for the next terrible headline to arrive,” she said.