In my lifetime in 1980 there was an explosion on Rue Copernic not far from the Place Victor Hugo which features a vigorous fountain of pulsating water a short walk from our apartment. The synagogue had been bombed and Parisians knew that an attack on some of us is an attack on all of us and there was outrage and stepped up vigilance. Two years later there was an attack in Le Marais - the heart and guts of the old city - at Chez Jo Goldenberg's restaurant where I used to go whenever I had a cold to get a penicillin dose of matzah ball soup. It was a horrific, bloody assault - the terrorists tossed in a grenade then entered with automatic rifles and shot at survivors. The site was chosen because it was associated with a certain tribe from the Middle East - but an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us and once again there was much outrage and vigilance. In the fullness of time those troubling times passed and things settled down.
Today we say je suis Parisian and I'm really not French, but anyone who has been to Paris feels the soul and enchantment of the city and the city is in us and we all dream of going back. At least most of the people I have met in my life.
Neither am I a New Yorker so I can't say what it feels like to be a New Yorker but more than a dozen years after the attack on our great national city I can't drive by on the New Jersey Turnpike or cross the George Washington Bridge or step foot in Manhattan without thinking about the missing towers and what happened on September 11th and the last desperate act of hopelessness for the jumpers and the people buried alive then crushed by the falling towers. In the same way I can't walk by the fountain at Victor Hugo without thinking about the bomb at the synagogue nor walk through Le Marais without thinking about the spot I sat where a grenade went off. There is only a plaque there now and a retail store but I remember and so do the people.
I was in New York a couple of weeks ago and it was a perfect day and life doesn't get better than that and I was thinking how good it would be for us to meet again in Paris and the education technology exposition I was dreaming to attend is next week.
New York is resilient and so is Paris. In my youth, there were terror attacks. And to think that just 15 years before my birth Paris was occupied by a terrorist, warring state run by Nazis. She survived and good times returned. This too shall pass. And as sure as the sun will rise there will occasionally be stormy days.
France is the oldest ally of the United States and we'd still be part of Great Britain's commonwealth if it weren't for the French and the aid they provided to General Washington at Yorktown, Virginia. Like all old couples there have been our share of lover's quarrels and conjugal spats. I see President Chirac's warnings to President Bush 43 about the dangers of invading Iraq as one of those disagreements between friends. The French - who had had colonies in the Arab world - knew what a hornets' nest the place could be for armies from the West and urged caution before invading. We could agree to disagree - but we will not be divided from our notres chers amis francais.
We will always remember. And there will always be Paris.