In a show of solidarity, a group of French expatriates and their supporters gathered Monday in Fresno to partake in a minute of silence for the victims of the terrorists attacks in Paris.
Afterward, Frédéric Martin, who organized the noontime event, led the group in singing the French national anthem “La Marseillaise,” and translated a proclamation from the French ambassador in Washington, D.C., that told them to mourn for the victims, but to stay strong.
“This is France: a will to live together and to share ideals,” the proclamation said. “It is that image of our country, today and tomorrow, that we must continue to put forth.”
Four days after suicide bombers and gunmen killed at least 129 people in Paris and wounded 352, the shock hasn’t worn off, even for people living thousands of miles away.
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“Everyone remains in shock. Everyone is sad,” said Denise Ulich, who attended Monday’s event at Alliance Française de Fresno, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching others about French culture, history and language.
Like others at the event, Ulich was born in France, but he has lived in Fresno for the past eight years.
“We are worried for our families, for our friends,” she said. “But we are strong people, a strong country.”
“We can not let them win,” Ulich said of the terrorists.
Within hours of the massacres, the Islamic State claimed full responsibility for the horrifying and indiscriminate attacks in Paris. On Monday, President Francois Hollande said France is committed to destroying the Islamic State group with an intensified military campaign in Iraq and Syria.
We can not let them win.
Denise Ulich, French-born Fresno resident, on the terrorists who attacked Paris
At Alliance Française de Fresno, the participants listened to the news of war on French television but took a somber tone, hoping that the forces of goodwill and love of humanity will prevail. A candle with a peace sign burned on a desk.
“This is like 9/11 to us,” Martin said. “But this is our second 9/11 this year.”
In January, gunmen with assault rifles killed 11 people and wounded 11 others at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper building. After leaving, they killed a National Police officer outside the building. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to an Islamic terrorist group, al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen. Several related attacks followed just outside the city, where five were killed and 11 wounded.
Martin said his mother, sisters and brothers, and cousins live in Paris. He said two nephews were at the soccer stadium when a bomb went off Friday. None of them were hurt.
“The French government is calling for three days of mourning,” Martin said.
The government also is calling for a larger police presence in Paris and for curfews, he said.
The violence, however, hasn’t prompted Ulich to cancel her trip to Paris next spring.
Also undeterred is Fresno orthopedic surgeon Dr. Paul Nugent, who also attended Monday’s minute of silence. Nugent told the gathering that he plans to travel to Paris in January for a yearlong sabbatical. His goal is to work for the World Health Organization, he said.
“Terrorism works because it instills fear,” Nugent said. “Everyone needs to show courage and continue on with their lives.”
Nugent ended his comments with “Vive La France.”
In unison, the group shouted, “Vive La France.”
Remembering the victims
▪ International Education Week kicked off at Fresno State on Monday with a moment of silence to honor victims of the Paris attacks, including Nohemi Gonzalez, a Long Beach State student who was studying in Paris.
▪ During a vigil at Long Beach State on Sunday, California State University Chancellor Timothy White read a poem written for Gonzalez by national poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera of Fresno.
▪ International Student Services is organizing a local vigil to remember Gonzalez and the other victims. The vigil will be held Friday; location and time are still being arranged.