Paris from Chicago: Processing Horror

I was at a conference in Chicago, meeting a friend and colleague for afternoon coffee when she was arrested by one of the ubiquitous flat screens tuned to CNN. We both stood for a moment, taking in the first news of what would be an extensive terrorist attack in Paris.

Chicago River at night, flowing toward Lake Michigan.

Chicago River at night, flowing toward Lake Michigan.

We ordered coffee and talked about our respective organizations, monitoring and evaluation, foreign assistance and new collaborations. Both of us knew whatever was happening in Paris would unfold over a few hours and we would hear a lot of misinformation. At one point, Liz, a mother since February, glanced at the monitor behind me and I turned around to look as well.

The view in daylight.

The view in daylight.

Neither of us was eager to try to formulate words that would make any sense of what was looking to be an extensive tragedy. She said, “Sometimes I look at the world and think maybe…” She paused and I thought, “we should just go to the north woods and go off grid.” Then she finished: “…we should move to Iowa and get away from this.”

Navy Pier upper left.

Navy Pier upper left. Windows on the 33rd floor don’t get washed very often.

Celi of thekitchensgarden hasn’t exactly gone off grid, but she’s come close and her response to this tragedy is powerful. I agree with her that there is some sense of having seen this before. Dorothy Parker comes to mind: “What fresh hell is this?” We all should, ultimately, formulate some response. How are we meant to go on?

And in the glow of sunrise.

And in the glow of sunrise.

The thing that struck me as I absorbed more news Friday evening was that Parisians were going onto the streets of their shut down city and bringing people who had no way home into their homes for the night. So we see on one hand the worst humankind can do and the best. Fanatical hate and unifying love.

The Tribune Tower at the beginning of the Magnificent Mile.

The Tribune Tower at the beginning of the Magnificent Mile.

Love won’t stop terrorists. I know there has to be another response, but the way we react to the horror will help us as we live our lives, and help survivors of the attacks. In Chicago, I was struck by how beautiful the city is, its gorgeous buildings, the ever-changing lake. And flying home, I felt calmed by the vision of the beautiful green world beneath the plane, and my first glimpse of the Potomac as we flew east and south over Maryland found it flecked with the golden light of mid-day.

Chicago from above. Navy Pier in the glow below the wing.

Chicago from above. Navy Pier in the glow below the wing.

We are all here on this fragile sphere spinning through the universe. Not everyone is calmed by nature and not everyone sees beauty in the same things, but I hope we can find strength in the beauty around us as we see it and unity with our fellow human beings–in the same way that many of the people leaving a soccer stadium in Paris did so singing the Marseillaise and many in the city opened their homes to strangers.

Crossing the mountains on the way east

Crossing the mountains on the way east

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34 Responses to Paris from Chicago: Processing Horror

  1. reocochran says:

    First of all, your photographs are superb. I need to say this, since sometimes I go straight to the “heart” of a post or matter forgetting the amenities I would usually mention.
    Paris is in my prayers, as is the world. It is a crazy and unforgettable tragedy. I was teary eyed and upset. It left me speechless. I went to a movie, “Spectre.” It helped me to escape from reality, guilty pleasure.

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  2. There is lots of Chicago grit – your response matches my hearts – you are right , what ever we do must start in our own homes and neighbourhoods – that in itself is powerful.. c

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  3. Sylvie G says:

    Beautiful photos and comments. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like seeing the same scene several times at different hours of the day and night. I have always found that great suffering brings people together. Most people are naturally compassionate, and adversity can bring that out. We must live our own lives, find solace, if we can, in nature, in beauty, and help when the opportunity presents itself. But the sense of helplessness in the face of such horrid events, faraway, that we can’t control, is almost palpable; certainly beyond words. (Of course, I would feel pretty helpless on the 33rd floor of a building… and in a jet plane, too! πŸ™‚ ) Beautiful photos, Lisa.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wherever there is dark, there is also light. Fred Rogers said it best: in times of tragedy, look for the helpers. There are always helpers.

    Brave souls hid Jews during the Nazi occupation. Amnesty groups help others escape persecution. So too, do modern day Parisians open their doors to others. Knowing these things help give me hope. The whys behind the hatred and radicalization are so hard for me to fathom in my cozy western world. There must be answers. There must be a better way forward.

    Brave post, Lisa. Welcome home.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well said Lisa, well said! If I am harshly honest, I am already tired of the sentimental cries of horror and weeping I am coming across that do no good for anybody anywhere! There have also been two suicide bombings in Beirut, with close to 50 lives lost I understand – but I note little or no mention of that among our cries of horror for Paris. Is that I wonder because they are seen as different, as an Arab country [Beirut is famously multi-ethnic] or is it simply that this is not given the same amount of air time and horror filled images?

    I am rather afraid that the propaganda machine is alive and well and kicking off another round of good excuses to attack some other poor folk while we all believe anything we are fed.

    The people of Paris are I understand, responding in a brave and humanitarian manner – I hope they will not be made the scapegoats for the next invasion.

    Personally I will wait to hear stories of the bravery, the miracles, the processes of recovery direct from the source, than replay the awful events over and over again via any news reel – with more and more insubstantial leads and ‘facts’ and theorising and I dread hearing talk of the dreadful retaliation that must be visited on the perpetrators…………..

    Your photos are beautiful – I probably should have said that before my rant slipped in…….. I also just love what Cynthia said – the both of you have done an excellent job in bringing balance and some sort of ethical response to these situations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Thanks Pauline. I’m glad it helps put a framework of sorts around it. Things can look so grim (I’ve been on a news diet for months) sometimes, it’s important to take stock and understand your perspective. I thought I could add on to Celi’s post and maybe help rather than participate in excessive mulling….

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  7. danellajoy says:

    Stunning pictures Lisa! Your thoughts over this horrific incident are appreciated.
    I am in the same thoughts of Pauline.
    I am full of compassion and love for the Parisian folk…… and those of Lebanon.

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  8. Mary Tang says:

    I think we must remember that there is warfare everywhere and innocent people are killed everyday, somewhere on this globe. ‘Terrorists’s attacks’ makes it sound more sensational for the newspapers but whichever way we want to describe it, believe me the terrorists saw it as war – it’s Man’s inhumanity to Man. All is NOT FAIR in war. I love Paris and my heart aches for the city and its people and I love Sydney and I am bracing for more attacks here (we’ve already had one in the heart of the city, at Martin Place).

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  9. Your opening reminds me of seeing 9/11 on laptops on my commuter train. I thought people were watching a disaster movie. Incidentally, yesterday, I believe almost 150 people were shot at a college in Nigeria.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. LB says:

    What fresh hell, indeed.
    Tragic events like the ones in Paris are sadly happening every day, all over the world. It’s almost overwhelming.
    We feel helpless … until we, as you say, unify in love.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your images.
    It’s nice to be back blogging and visiting friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well said Lisa…with all the horror, violence and hatred what else can we do but stubbornly bringing love and light in the world. xo Johanna

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  12. KerryCan says:

    I give you a lot of credit for writing about Paris, Lisa. I sit around and feel . . . but I am too cowardly to try and put my feelings into words. SO much is sad and scary in so many places in the world and feels hopeless. I guess the best answer is to look for moments of beauty and happiness and peace and acknowledge what they mean to us.

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    • arlingwoman says:

      Thanks, Kerry. It takes a lot of processing, whether you do it through feelings or try to verbalize. I was hesitant, as was my friend, to say much, as it is inexpressible and it keeps happening over and over.

      Like

  13. starkwe says:

    I haven’t written about Paris, Beirut, and all the others, because I just don’t have the words right now. Thank you for your sentiments.

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  14. Robin says:

    Somehow you’ve turned something awful into something beautiful. Not that violence is in any way beautiful. Your post is. Your photos are wonderful.

    Like

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