While France rallies in solidarity and world leaders pledge to find new ways to fight terror, a number of heroes emerged in Paris this week.
First, there was Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim police officer who died on duty protecting the Charlie Hebdo offices on Wednesday. His death defending the right of the weekly newspaper to satirize his own religion prompted the #JeSuisAhmed hashtag last week. While many fear the attacks are exacerbating anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, Merabet's brother made this statement at his funeral on Sunday: "My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims. Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the police and of defending the values of the Republic &mdashh; liberty, equality, fraternity."
When Amedy Coulibaly stormed into the kosher grocery store Hyper Cacher in Paris on Friday, Lassana Bathily, a Muslim from Mali (as was Coulibaly), took immediate action. The 24-year-old helped 15 hostages into a freezer for safety, closed the door, and turned off the cold. He then used a lift to escape the building and inform police about what was happening.
Unfortunately, some of the hostages wound up in a freezer with a door that wouldn't lock. They were brought back up into the store by an employee, with a message that they'd all be killed if they didn't. One of them, known as Michael B., later spoke to French paper Le Point and described another hero, whose name we still don't know. This unnamed hostage picked up a gun from the counter and pointed it back at Coulibaly. Sadly, the gun was on the counter because it had jammed earlier, and the man was shot dead instantly.
While the Hyper Cacher situation was underway, Charlie Hebdo shooters Saïd and Chérif Kouachi were cornered by police at a printing plant in Dammartin-en-Goële, outside of Paris. When owner Michel Catalano saw the heavily armed men about to enter, he told his employee, Lilian Lepere, to hide. Then he welcomed the men inside, made them coffee and calmly helped one of them adjust his bandages. He says that he was mainly concerned about Lepere's safety but felt like the Kouachi brothers would not harm him. They even allowed a vendor who'd arrived after them to leave immediately. After an hour, they let Catalano go too.
Lepere himself was still huddled in a cardboard box, texting his family and then the police about the layout of the factory. He stayed in communication with them for about six hours, until the terrorists were killed in a shootout.
Of course, we must mention all of the Paris police officers involved in the attacks and in protecting the rest of Paris during this tumultuous week. In a strange juxtaposition to events in the U.S. over the past few months, participants at the Unity March on Sunday were heard thanking the police along the way.