Paris resident shares experience with shootings

San_Francisco_Charlie_Hebdo_rally_January_7_2015_03By Kelly Schoessling
It was around lunch time in Paris Wed. Jan. 7 when Guillaume Chabanne was at work and heard there was an attack at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Chabanne’s initial response was to go to lunch.
However, as the day progressed, Chabanne’s reaction changed. After returning from lunch, the office televisions were changed to french news channels to hear more about the attack. It was then that Chabanne realized something bigger was happening.
Although Chabanne has never read Charlie Hebdo, he is well aware of its history.
“Even if you’ve never bought [the newspaper]. You know what it is,” Chabanne said.
Chabanne also recalls a previous attack on the satirical newspaper back in 2011 when the publication’s office building was firebombed. According to Chabanne, Charlie Hebdo’s controversial past has become a part of French history.
After the reports of 12 casualties and proceeding attacks in the suburbs of Paris the following day, Chabanne states the city had a change in atmosphere.
“There was a switch,” Chabanne said. “People knew it was getting out of control. It felt like war. People were saying it was like our 9/11. You know that moment where everything is not the same. What you’ve known is not the same; it’s changed.”
Chabanne explains that although the two terrorist attacks are different in death count, they’re similar in fear.
“It’s the same shock for our nation as it has been for [America],” Chabanne said. “It’s been a wakeup call for the country like, ‘Hey we’ve got enemies, and they really want to hurt and kill us.”
Chabanne could not attend the march through Paris Sunday Jan. 11; however, plenty of his friends and coworkers attended themselves.
“It was huge,” Chabanne said. “I could see [all my friends] on facebook and saw text messages that everybody was going there. I received some texts like, ‘Are you going there?’”
The march took place in the 11th district of central France, and Chabanne lives in the 17th. However, despite the distance, Chabanne recalls the streets being completely vacant during the march.
“From my window I can see some of the trains going into the city, and they were packed on a Sunday afternoon, which is very unusual,” Chabanne said.
According to, a total of 3.7 million people attended the rally including world leaders from across Europe. It is the largest gathering in the nation’s capital in French history.
“It’s the first time that we felt something similar to the American way of doing things,” Chabanne said. “[We were] singing the national anthem, getting together, just being proud of our citizenship. That never happens here. Never. On Sunday everybody was proud to be French.”
Chabanne recalls seeing unusual patriotism like people waving french flags and even witnessing the french police getting a round of applause.
“This very unusual thing brought people together, but to be honest two days later it vanished, Chabanne said. “You don’t feel it anymore.”
Chabanne also states that the absences of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry at the rally was a surprise for many french citizens.
“What I felt, and what most French people felt was that we’re fighting a war against terrorism. Even if [America doesn’t] agree with that, it’s a war. And [America is] fighting the same war, but [they’re] not joining us and we don’t understand that.”
Kerry later visited Paris Jan. 16 to show solidarity, which Chabanne states was appreciated.
Chabanne had previously spent seven months living in Chicago back in 2000, so he’s been able to experience both French and American culture when it comes to freedom of expression.
“From what I felt in the [USA] freedom of speech is absolute for you,” said Chabanne. “It’s above everything, it’s in your constitution. I would say there’s a big difference between France and the USA. There’s a quote from [Louis Antoine de Saint] a philosopher of the French Revolution who said there’s, “No freedom for the enemies of Freedom.”
Chabanne explains that the french view freedom more as a concept for the Republic, meaning the French state.
Despite the ongoing battle for freedom of expression and the fight against terrorism, Chabanne ultimately feels that what matters most from Paris’s frightening week is the unity from European world leaders.
“To me that’s the important thing,” Chabanne said. “[European leaders] felt threatened and moved by what happened in Paris together.”