Three days after the horrific terror attacks in Paris I can’t stop thinking about those who died. Their faces stare out of the front pages – smiling, full of joie de vivre and heartbreakingly young. Like most people, I’ve spent hour after hour listening to the radio, unable to concentrate on anything else at all.
The newspapers have done an exemplary job, reporting on the manhunt, interviewing the bereaved with sensitivity and compassion and talking to stunned yet bravely defiant Parisians.
One article infuriated me, however, and that was an opinion piece in the Independent by someone called Lulu Nunn, berating the way thousands of Facebook users have imposed an image of the French flag on their profile pictures to show solidarity with the French.
Here’s a line from her piece: “…paint-by-numbers solidarity when it’s foisted on you by one of the most powerful companies in the world is simply not the way to help a traumatised nation in shock after murder.”
I don’t agree. In my view it’s a tiny but moving gesture that shows our French friends that everyone is thinking of them right now. When my daughter (who studied at the Sorbonne in Paris for a year and spent most Friday and Saturday nights in the 10eme and 11eme arrondissements) changed her profile picture it was immediately “liked” by several of her closest Parisian friends.
From what I can see, the French are touched by the sympathy of people around the world. On Sunday my son decided to go slack-lining (a sort of tightrope walking a foot off the ground) in a park in Marseille. An elderly Frenchman on a bench started chatting to him. When he realised he was English the man thanked him profusely for London’s decision to illuminate Tower Bridge in the colours of the tricolour – blue, white and red in tribute to those who lost their lives.
Another simple gesture, but one that the old man in Marseille, and many more besides, clearly appreciated a lot.