We spoke to the people behind Grey’s tribute to the Paris attacks

‘I’ve been to the Bataclan. It could have been me.’

Durham stood shoulder to shoulder with Paris, when hundreds of us flocked to Grey to stand in solidarity with the rest of Europe. 

The Tab spoke to four French organisers. Oliver, from Paris, Clement and half French Adriana and Sonia who have friends and family in the French capital.

Photo: Students of Durham

Clément is from Brittany and lives in Aix en Provence. Clément explained that a rivalry usually exists between Paris and the countryside, but in the face of disaster this has vanished: “All French citizens were Parisian this weekend.”

Olivier Morain is a second year at Grey studying Psychology. He lives just twenty minutes from the Bataclan in the eleventh arrondissement.

He told The Tab: “I’ve been to concerts in the Bataclan, taken cafés at La Belle Equipe. The immediate reaction is you fear for your friends and family. Then it is ‘it could have been me.’ It really could have.”

Adriana Thomson, a third year at Hatfield studying Criminology and Sonia Ritsos, a fourth year at Grey studying Chinese both felt desperation on that night.

She said: “We spent a good hour frantically calling everyone and some of our friends we couldn’t get a hold of for a while.

ParisTealight“Our mutual friend graduated from Durham last year and we messaged her first as she’s back there. She told us ‘I was there two hours ago and I’m still in the area.’ I texted her and she didn’t know what was happening, with sirens everywhere.

“My cousin lost a friend of his that he’s known since he was ten years old. You could just think of these young lives with so much ahead of them, so much to live for, taken away for no reason. That’s what makes me so angry.”

Sonia is friends with people who witnessed the attack. She said: “The next day I talked to my mum. Everyone we know is fine but it is scary. My mum had been telling me about attacks in the 80s that happened in Paris and I always thought it was in the 80s – it’s not going to happen again.”

Motivated to act, the four students drew together to plan a commemoration.

The vigil at Grey College

Adriana described their desire to make a positive impact  in the days after the terrorist attacks.

She told The Tab: “Our motivation behind doing the vigil so quickly afterwards is that we felt such a tremendous amount of pain that we wanted a space where we could express it and others could express it.

“It wasn’t just French people who felt it. Everyone kind of felt it.

“One thing I came to realise is that all of this anger and sadness inside me, I need to use it to make a change.”

CathedralPhoto2At the event speeches were read out, partially in French and partially in English. This was followed by a minute’s silence and a rendition of La Marseillaise, after which anyone who wished to could speak.

The general mood following the vigil is one of determination. Determination that life can carry on and that something positive can happen in the wake of such violence.