Please Remember Charlie


The decorations ripped down and slung in a corner until next Christmas – only 307 shopping days left – or 357 if you live in Paris, where the capital’s large department stores have finally been allowed to open on Sundays.

Down here in the provinces though, it is Sunday business as usual – no business, save a handful of small grocery stores, allowed to open on the pretext that they sell perishable produce.

No mistake, it is January, where everyday is almost a non-day – the flat grey timescape of the new year, when the year feels like it has already been going on forever. Time is no time as we resume « real » life after the festive blip and wonder if there is anything left to look forward to.

On this interminable journey through the damp landscape of winter, where or what is the next landmark? What respite or festivities loom on the horizon?

Thank heavens though for the nothingness of January – it is just two years since France was reeling in the shockwave of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks.

11.30am January 7th 2015 – two terrorists forced their way into the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing a security guard and then gunned down six members of the editorial committee at their weekly meeting before killing a policeman during their getaway. Later that day on the other side of Paris another terrorist shot dead a female auxiliary police officer before entering a Jewish supermarket and murdering customers.

The bloody tally of the day – 17 dead

There were national shows of unity – massive and impromptu gatherings in every town and city across France. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people took to the streets to express their grief indignation. The French national anthem, the Marseillaise echoed across the land and suddenly everyone said « Je suis Charlie. »

And gradually the magical feeling of unity subsided as « normal service » was resumed. Down came the « Charlie » posters with the feeling that France had « paid the price » for its interventions in Mali and Afghanistan – there would be no more killing now.

Then on 13th of November the slaughter of the innocents – 130 people murdered in bars and cafés around the République area of Paris – the massacre of concertgoers at the Bataclan

14th July 2016 – a madman drives a lorry into crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice – 86 dead

25th July 2016 – the murder of a priest in church his during mass at St Etienne de Rouvray near Rouen.

Terrorist massacres became the stuff of everyday life. Despite the bloody nature of these atrocities, the French became « hardened » – shocked, appalled, grief-stricken, incredulous, but « hardened » And now we count the atrocity in terms of victims or barbarity. It seems sadly like Charlie has become a mère sideshow compared to the other attacks.

Two years on from Charlie – two years already. Was that just two years ago ? It feels like it happened in another life, in another time, another place.

In commemoration of those terrible attacks – low-key, wreath-laying ceremonies by politicians, survivors and members of victims’ families. No great out-pouring of public grief, no mass gatherings of crowds in Paris – not a single Marseillaise to be heard.

I’m not sure if we simply don’t want to remember or, quite simply, that no one really does remember. I hope we still care.

« Two years since those Charlie Hebdo attacks » I remark to a colleague at work last week.

« Charlie Hebdo … ? » There is a moment of hesitation.

« Oh that. »

Please take a few minutes out this week to be « Charlie »

Take time out to remember all the victims of terrorism.