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The city of Paris experienced its largest terrorist attack in history on Friday. Over the weekend, mourners gathered at a makeshift memorial next to the Bataclan concert hall where one of the attacks took place. | Courtesy of Luis A. Ferré Sadurní

“Death is not a conclusion.”

These are words I heard and wrote down a few weeks ago, when I watched Jean-Luc Godard’s film “Contempt.” Today, they resonate more than ever.

On Nov. 13, I was in Van Pelt, working on a history paper. My phone buzzed: my brother, asking me if I had seen what was happening in Paris at that very moment. I checked the time, 4:26 p.m. which was 10:26 p.m. in France. I knew it couldn’t be good. I felt it.

Online, I read article after article, trying to make sense of what happened. Four dead, 18 dead, 40, 100, 129. Restaurants, streets, le Stade de France, Le Bataclan. Le Bataclan: a rock venue I’ve been to a few times. Streets I’ve walked by. Neighborhoods I go to.


This was, as President Obama said, “an attack on all of humanity.” But not just any humanity: the inventor of the bon vivant, the French concept that means lover of things, of good things. French people, more than anyone, share a culture that celebrates living the way you want to, no matter what. We are assertive in our values; we praise the things that make us happy; we joke about the things that scare us, because what else can we do? We know that we will not achieve anything by getting angry at those who are angry at us.  Those who are offended by our life choices, our sense of freedom, of love, of a good coffee, of enjoying the rain, going out to rock concerts and having a cigarette, a glass of wine and a great group of friends.

Those who do not recognize each other’s differences. Those who are mad at the world. Those who don’t love life. Those are the ones to whom we say:

“We won’t stop doing what we’re doing, because we are true to ourselves. And you don’t scare us. We are not afraid of you. Instead, you should be scared of us. Nous, les bons vivants. We’re stronger than you. We’ll show you that love will trump everything else. And that we can survive anything. Fluctuat nec mergitur : it floats but doesn’t sink. That’s our motto. We will never sink.”

On Monday evening, the Assembly of International Students at Penn held a candlelight vigil on College Green to show support and solidarity to the victims of Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and many others. It was incredibly heartwarming to see hundreds of students gathered around to pay their respect and their love to the fallen, their close ones and those who are away from their families in times like these. It was beautiful to see such a global and diverse community stand together, united, tearful but hopeful. Hopeful that we do not have to change who we are and that our oppressors will eventually fall.

Not only were these Penn students there for others, they were there for themselves, too. They had to show that in their hearts, too, there exists a will to resist the people who do not appreciate life and freedom. The Penn community — like the Parisians, the citizens of Beirut, the passengers of the Russian plane, the Japanese and all of the other ones — can stand up after being brought down. We can and should all be proud to say that no matter the insults, no matter the terror, no matter the oppression, we will never sink.

And please, do not use Paris as a way to generate more hate. People will always react differently to trauma and tragedy. But in times like these, the only thing we can do is keep on living how we always have. It will be difficult, yes. It will use a lot of our energy, yes. And people won’t necessarily understand us. But that’s okay. In the end, we will get back on our feet, and we will triumph over hate and injustice. So look at life beautifully, and cherish what you have. It’s the only way.

Elvire Audi is a junior in the College from Paris, studying Cinema Studies and Intellectual History.

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