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The Threat of Terrorism and a Trip to Paris

January 12, 2017

On January 7, 2015 the world cried with Paris and the words “Je suis Charlie” were understood by all. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last that people watched events unfold on televisions and read news stories in sadness, as terrorists carried out an attack on innocent civilians. Between then and November 15, 2016 when Paris again erupted in pain, tears, and confusion, bombs took lives across the globe, from Lebanon to Afghanistan, China to Bangkok.

On March 22, 2016 the busy Brussels airport exploded in broken glass and debris. 32 people died and over 300 were injured in the coordinated blasts in the airport and metro. To people who methodically and mechanically travel through airports every day, it was a personally disturbing event. After September 11, 2001 many people saw plans as the places to fear, not the airports.

Then, on June 28, 2016 three men detonated explosive devices in the Istanbul airport, and once again hearts around the world sank in sorrow as the news was reported. This time 44 people were killed and 320 people injured. It was another horrific day for so many families.

Where in the world is safe has become the question of glob trotters and holidaymakers. The answer is uncertain. Perhaps an island in the Caribbean is free from these dangers, or maybe, a town in Middle America. But then, again, maybe not.

It was recently reported that every 84 hours ISIS carries out a terrorist attack. A staggering number that has everyone concerned, particularly Europeans. Coordinated, cold-blooded, and calculated, terrorism is also unpredictable in its targets. It may seem that in the face of all the violence there is only one response, fear.

However, there is a poignant saying, now how does it go? Ah yes, “Paris is always a good idea.” Audrey Hepburn delivered the line in the film Sabrina before there were suicide bombers in airports and car bombs at Bastille Day parades, but it still seems a rallying cry for the world traveler. A statement that Paris is still this magical and impossibly pretty city that is worth visiting, despite recent events.

It is interesting to follow travel photos on Instagram, Facebook and other social media because the people and places of Paris are still photographed daily. There are men and women, children, lovers, friends, and family members from all backgrounds and countries smiling from street corners and beaming at the Louvre entrance. Montemart is still frisky and Sacre de Coeur crowded at sunset. Couples stroll through Tuileries Gardens and the 11th Arrondissement remains edgy, fun, and lively.

There are no shortage of cafés selling cakes and coffee, except in August when the residents flee to southern France, and no lack of vendors hawking tee shirts and hats from sidewalks near the Seine. Artwork is still sold from trunks and cases, and everyone loves to take a picture at a metro entrance. In one photo there is Notre Dame glistening under the summer sun, and another shot shows the Eiffel Tower twinkling against a night sky.

Even without its grace, macrons, and endless charisma, Paris is a particularly necessary idea right now. To avoid Paris or Brussels or other European cities that have experienced terrorism in this year is to make a decision based on fear. It is a decision based on weakness, and it means the terrorist win. That is not an option. Thankfully, it is not happening. It appears that many people agree with the idea that, despite all the worst news and media attention, to visit Paris is still a good idea.

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