This past week, the news hit very close to home. 300 meters close to home to be exact. Understandably, it was a difficult week. But living abroad when the eyes of the world are turned to dramatic events in your home country is not just difficult. It’s frustrating. In moments like this, you long you be home and share in the collective sorrow, not just read about it in the news. I wish I could have been home this week, with my family, with my people. But I’m here. So on Wednesday evening, I did the next best thing. I gathered with friends and fellow expatriates outside of the Newseum, to mourn the 12 people murdered earlier that day in the Parisian newsroom of Charlie Hebdo and to make a statement for freedom of the press and of expression. As we stood together, reading the names of the victims in the icy January cold, I was overwhelmed by everyone who showed up that evening.
Even more people showed up at the Newseum on Sunday for a silent solidarity march organized by the French Embassy. By then, the deadly count had grown to 17 victims and the perpetrators of the attacks had been killed as well. Led by Ambassador Gérard Araud and IMF head Christine Lagarde, the crowd of 3,000 solemnly made its way to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial near Judiciary Square.
Similar solidarity rallies were held throughout the United States, Canada and the world, though of course, all of us expats wished we could have been at one of the historical gatherings that took place throughout France that day. In France, the rallies against terrorism and in support of the victims drew an unprecedented crowd of 3.7 million people, including 1.6 million people in Paris alone. As president Hollande stated, Paris was the capital of the world yesterday. It was difficult not being there, standing with friends, family and strangers alike for the values that make France the country that it is today. But while I was physically away, my heart was definitely in Paris yesterday.