One Year After Deadly Attacks On Charlie Hebdo, Parisians' Words Remain Powerful

Editor's note: It has been one year since the attacks that killed 12 people at the offices of satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. During that year, Paris has been forced to mourn once again. On November 13, armed men allied with the Islamic State group, or ISIS, stormed a concert hall and soccer stadium as well as cafes and restaurants, killing some 130 people.
Shortly after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Refinery29's Alyssa Coscarelli spoke with people in Paris about how they felt. We feel their words are just as powerful today as they were a year ago.
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This story was originally published on January 8, 2015.
Photo: Guilhem Baker/LNP/REX USA.
After gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris newspaper office of Charlie Hebdo, French President François Hollande declared today a national day of mourning. For the second night in a row, thousands of people gathered in the streets of Paris, as well as in cities across France and the world.
I'm in Paris right now on a vacation and have seen events unfold firsthand. The situation is extremely sad, but it's also moving to see the people of Paris come together. It reminds me a bit of how the people of New York (and America as a whole) have come together in the face of our national tragedies.
The French are speaking out for the journalists who had their lives cut short for the risks they took. The demonstrations taking place are not violent or angry, but somber, respectful, and peaceful. No one seems to be seeking revenge — just trying to make their voices heard in the hopes of upholding their beliefs and paying respect to those who lost their lives.
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I went to the Place de la République the evening after the attack and asked some of those gathered there why they'd come and how they felt in the aftermath of the tragedy. Some interviews have been translated from French.
Agnes, 59
"For me, it’s just a huge shock. I am shattered and overwhelmed, but because I’ve been thinking of it all day long, I’d rather be here, to have everyone around me. To see where this is going and what we can do, but mostly just to be here."
Nina, 16
"The tragedy really moved me. Because we’re in high school, we’re concerned because this affects our freedom of expression and of speech. That’s especially important to us, since we’re teenagers, the new generation, and we have to protect that right."
Photo: Antti Aimo­Koivisto/REX USA.
Leila, 53
"First of all, [my response] is shock. The intended purpose of today's attack was to wipe out a newspaper, which published provocative, humorous material. That goes beyond the massacre of a dozen individuals and the heart-wringing devastation of their families; it is a gesture of fundamentalism against one of the basic tenets of democracy.
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"France has several choices now: it can mourn the dead and go on as before, but without Charlie Hebdo, or it can, perhaps, face up to some harsh realities. The slogan of support that has spread all over France today is "Je suis Charlie." I think the meaning is: If we are all Charlie, then Charlie cannot be killed again."
Lucy, 40
"We are here to support freedom of speech. We want to stand together tonight and for the days to come. We want to say they didn’t die for nothing, that their speech, their drawings, and the risks they’ve taken for many years were worth it.
"Freedom of speech is our common good. We stand up to say we won’t be afraid. Now, we have to take those risks together."
Photo: Antti Aimo­Koivisto/REX USA.
Victoria, 30
"It’s a time of outrage. In the face of such horror, we have to take to the streets."
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Luciana, 57
"I wanted to be here with the others. The tragedy made me feel like a grain of sand, and so I wanted to be surrounded by all the other grains of sand.
"I wanted to be surrounded by all the others in a sad and difficult situation but [one] that needs to be confronted and also maybe needs to be put into perspective… I’m here only for that…to feel surrounded by others, so I don’t feel alone in this moment."
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