My final day in France was a day of celebration. The country of France was celebrating their independence, Bastille Day, the day the rebels stormed the Bastille and France was freed! We were also celebrating just finishing our coursework at the university the day before. And I was celebrating and mourning my last day in France. A group of us, the last five still in Lyon from UMKC met in the evening to sit along the Saone River to watch the fireworks that would be displayed just above and around the Cathedral Fourviere, a very well known landmark in Lyon.
The night was truly magical. We found the perfect spot, just by a live band that was set up on the sidewalk, and we sat on curbside steps to talk about our love for the city, how sad we were to leave, how happy we were to see the fireworks, and what it would be like once we all returned to the states. We shared wine talked, sang, hugged each other, took tons of photos; and when it was time for the display, we shared a blanket and watched in awe at the beauty of it all. All of us so sad in realizing our time was over in Lyon.
Afterward we decided to walk around the corner to sit at our favorite local pub, where we had watched almost every game of the soccer tournament. While there, our phones began to all ring over and over with texts, calls and messages from people in the states. After we realized we were all getting these calls we checked to see what was going on. To our horror, everyone was checking on us to make sure we were not in Nice as an act of terrorism had happened or was occurring then. All of our loved one’s worst fears had almost been confirmed and it hit too close to home for everyone. On such a beautiful night, one of celebration, joy, pride and love; in a moment was turned into a horrifying moment for so many. We were heartbroken and somberly thankful to be okay.
So many people’s reaction to the news was to say things like, “this is why we were afraid for you to go. Things are just so bad there right now” and “weren’t you afraid everyday walking there that you could be in an attack?” Everything people thought and felt made it sound like we were so much safer in the US and we took such a risk going to France during these times.
But I saw France, I lived there, and I’ve really never felt safer than when I was in France. Yes, they were in high alert due to possible acts of terror. Yes, they have had many large attacks that so many have sadly lost their lives and been injured, but so have we. We have had just as many if not more on US soil. Not to mention that, we have all the gun violence and random acts that occur daily on our soil. We have our own people shooting up schools, theaters, churches, malls, streets, parks, bars and countless other places. We see casualties of violence on a daily basis and mass casualties on a regular basis, to the point I see some people becoming desensitized to the horrors we face daily. I spoke to one French man while in France and he spoke of not even knowing where to purchase a gun if he wanted one because they are illegal there.
This is not a blog to advocate or lobby for or against gun control in the US. I’m really on the fence about these topics and will not use this space to create a debate. But I feel people’s fears of traveling are misplaced. Never once did I walk down a street of Lyon fearful of what could happen to me, even in the midnight hours. I think that we must not be fearful to travel, because bad things can happen anywhere. We are not less likely to be a victim of anything in the US than we are if we are traveling. Of course, travel smart and be aware of your surroundings. But do not be fearful to go. I would do it all again without a second thought and you should too. My heart breaks every time I see one of these stories on the news, but by not traveling, by being fearful we are allowing terror and terrorists to win. And that is something I never plan to do. So Vive la France and Vive la liberté!!!