By Kalina Davis
The Eiffel Tower was deserted. It is one of the world’s top tourist attractions, with multitudes of people swarming around it every day, yet that day it stood completely empty. It looked like a kind of ghost town, the life and energy sucked out of its structure.
I remember exactly where I was when I found out about the terrorist attack on Paris. I was sitting at the kitchen table of my Airbnb in Venice, scrolling through Facebook while I waited for my roommates to finish eating breakfast. Post after post filled my newsfeed about the tragedy that took place the night before. As I realized the lives that were lost, and the trust that had been destroyed, my heart dropped. When I was notified that a friend of mine who had been in Paris during the attack was safe, the reality of the situation became even more real to me. I was in the middle of my semester studying abroad in Rome, and these events that were taking place in Europe were real and threatening.
My roommates and I were quiet that morning as we processed the cruel reality that Paris faced. What did it mean for us? We intended on traveling to Paris the following weekend. Our doubts and hesitations surfaced all day. On one had, we were incredibly thankful we weren’t there that weekend, but on the other, we still wanted to see and experience Paris.
Despite the wishes of my friends and family in America, a week later, there I stood, gaping at the world-famous piece of architecture. The atmosphere was eerie and somber as the rain drizzled down around us. This was a sight I had been longing to see for years, and there it was. Desolate. For me, the Eiffel Tower had been a symbol of romance and beauty, but after the attack, it had become a sign of tragedy and fear.
I hesitated to pull out my camera to take a picture. Was I being insensitive? I felt guilty for being there. For trying to have an enjoyable experience while so many people were grieving and living in fear. I told myself to be melancholy. Don’t laugh. Don’t smile. Keep your head down. I should be grieving with the people of Paris instead of enjoying my visit.
However, as we explored the beautiful city, what I found surprised me. The women working in the café were friendly and cheerful. The young lady on the street smiled at us in greeting. The men serving us crepes at the Christmas market invited us to go get drinks. Everywhere we went we ran into kindness. But what I saw was more than kindness. It was hope. It was picking up the broken pieces and moving forward. One smile at a time.
I realized something important that day. Choosing to live in fear and despair was giving in. It was letting the terrorists win. I realized that by letting the despair of what happened the week before darken my enjoyment of this charming and wonderful city, I was giving in. I was letting grief overpower hope. The people of Paris that I encountered that day were not giving in. They were lifting their chins and moving forward. Yes, there was still pain. There was still grief. The lives lost that night will never be forgotten. But fear did not have the upper hand. And that makes all the difference.
Let us not allow fear to run our lives and determine our actions. Let us not give doubt the upper hand. Let us instead live our lives to the fullest with hope and courage and kindness to break through the darkness in this world.
Go Travel, and Travel Fearless.
Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel
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