I was going to write about how I spent Thursday afternoon in a bus to the middle of nowhere, because I left my keys in my coat in the library, that had closed up for the day.
Instead I checked my twitter feed late on Friday night and then didn’t stop reading the Internet for four or five hours.
I’m fine, of course, far away from where the attacks took place. Palaiseau is about 20 km from Paris. Still, I sent text messages, whatsapp messages, and facebook messages and updated twitter and facebook to let everyone know.
We spent Saturday mostly at home. We hadn’t planned to, but we hadn’t planned not to either. The only noticable change in Palaiseau was the security person at the large supermarket. He’s always there, but on Saturday he wanted to check my bag.
Gergö would have liked to go to Paris on Sunday. A lot of people had gathered at the place de la Republique and he would have liked to commemorate the victims. I didn’t want to go though, because it smacked too much of gawking. Also, I’m uncomfortable with accidental fare dodging, I’m not going to ignore a Paris wide ban on assemblies.
I’m really glad we didn’t go, too, because there were several instances of mass panic when people heard loud noises or saw an armed man (who turned out to be a plain clothes police officer).
Over the weekend all city services and facilities were closed, but my Monday morning French course was on. We didn’t even talk about the attacks in class, which I found weird, but not everyone can and wants to talk about it, I guess.
My colleagues who were in Paris already in January said that the heightened security level means mostly not being able to park in front of schools when you drop of kids. Another couple couldn’t catch the bus from their usual place, because it has been rerouted not to go past the école polytechnique (the university).
“For security reasons” apparently becomes the reason for everything in times like these. The national security alert system is called vigipirate and the signs that the level has been elevated to alerte attentat are everywhere.
After class I walked to the city hall. I’d read on the city website that the mayor invited Palaisiennes and Palaisiens to join him at the mairie for observing the countrywide minute of silence to commemorate the victims and their families.
What suprised me most was that nobody wanted to check my backpack walking into the mairie. That mostly elderly people showed up, didn’t surprise. It is the middle of the day, after all. The mayor was there, of course, wearing a giant tricolore sash. I’d never seen public officials wear a sash before. Wait, maybe I have – I think Austrian politicians wear it to the Opera ball. I just checked and they do, but the Austrian sash is much smaller and worn underneath the suit jacket, while the tricolore is wider and worn over everything.
What I didn’t realise before today: kisses on the cheek are pretty loud. Palaiseau is small, a lot of people showing up knew each other, so there was a lot of cheek kissing. And it seems, here it’s not just the touching of cheeks while pursing your lips. There is some serious smacking of lips as well. Men, too, sometimes greet each other like that. I haven’t figured out the rules yet, though.
Shortly before noon the mayor said a couple of words into a microphone that was a little too quiet. I couldn’t understand a thing, mostly because there was an old man next to me complaining that it was too quiet the entire time. The speech, like the message on the website seemed to be mostly grief, unity, war rhetoric.
At least they didn’t end by singing the Marseillaise. I don’t know the words and don’t want to draw attention, what with my unchecked backpack and all. And I don’t get the whole patriotism in the first place, when so many attackers where French.