The march in Paris was held today, Sunday, in tribute to the lives lost in this week’s Islamist terrorist attacks in France.
Nearly 4 million people showed up and many of the world leaders attended, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to NY Times.
There has not been such an event built up in response to Islamic extremism since the September 11th attacks.
In response to the terrorist attack that killed 17 people in France and created worldwide attention, people of all ages, races, political views, and religions (or lack thereof) swarmed the streets of Paris under a bright blue sky and called for peace and an end to violent radicalism.
Many people chose to wave the French flag and hold up pens and black and white signs saying “Je Suis Charlie.”
The world leaders joined the march in a solemn line. They moved slowly, clasping arms to show solidarity with the victims (Israeli Prime Minister and Pakistani President did not stand beside one another). The crowd roared in approval. At various times, those in attendance burst into spontaneous applause and occasionally into France’s national anthem, “La Marseillaise.”
At one point, President of France François Hollande left the line of dignitaries to greet the families of the victims, as well as survivors of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Some of the relatives and staff members were wearing white headbands that said “Charlie.” One man identified on French television as a staff member embraced Hollande for several seconds and wept.
It was a beautiful sight that, while many of us weren’t able to attend, these people who choose to show no fear, represented those who couldn’t make it.
One person that didn’t come to the march was President Barack Obama. The man who was supposed to represent the American citizens values and ideals, for some reason decided not to come. He chose to send Jane D. Hartley, ambassador to France, instead. A golf game probably caused the schedule conflict for the super-busy Obama. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has deep ties with France, didn’t show up either. We want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt and figure that he had something crucial to do on Sunday, but the truth is, it is not so.
But no matter, our hearts are united with those who took part in the march. The unity march meant an important thing that everyone seemed to be on the same page about, including Sharon Korman, 58, an American psychotherapist who has lived and worked in Paris for more than 7 years. “The terrorists win if we don’t stand up and come together in this manner. Terrorism leaves us feeling afraid in our normal, daily lives. If we say, ‘I’m here anyway despite that fear,’ it makes an important statement,” she said.
*This story has been updated with the most recently learned facts.