Posted by Lyndsey Ibarra
I woke up in a hostel in Cracow, Poland with a dozen texts and Facebook messages from different people asking if I had gone to Paris. As I nudged my friends around me awake, we all had the same messages waiting for us on our phones. Still groggy, we simply googled, “What happened in Paris?” and my friend with the quickest connection suddenly sat bolt upright. She passed her phone around since the rest of our internet pages refused to load, and all the headlines said, “Paris Attacks”, “Dozens Dead, More Wounded”, and “Shootings in Paris”. For almost an hour, we scrolled through countless articles to catch up on the night’s events, responded to concerned parents and friends, and messaged those who had traveled to Paris that weekend.
Fast forward two weeks, and the shock of what had occurred – on the same continent where we were currently living – was still stuck in everyone’s heads. A lot of people cancelled their trips to France, and many had to convince their parents that it was still safe to travel in Europe. And unfortunately in the back of everyone’s minds, we wondered, “Is it actually a good idea to travel?” It was a tricky limbo to live in: you’re trying to be safe and yet, not live in fear. As college students studying abroad in Europe, we wouldn’t allow ourselves to stay put for very long.
It still blows my mind that while living in Europe, I could be in another country in just a few hours. One Sunday towards the end of November, my friend and I decided that we would take a day-trip to Prague the very next morning. For sixteen euros and four hours of our day, we were in the Czech Republic. While in Prague, we visited the John Lennon Wall. The Lennon Wall came about in the 1980s and was not only a memorial to John Lennon and his ideas for peace but also a monument to free speech and the non-violent rebellion of Czech people against communist police.
While the wall is not grand in any sense, it has a remarkable spirit. It is a place where people can go to draw, paint, or write anything they desire for the world – most often along the themes of love and peace. What made this trip particularly special was seeing the wall after the attacks in Paris. Dozens of people had painted the Eiffel Tower, peace signs, and the French flag upon the wall. In addition, the Lennon Wall is directly across from the French Embassy. And on the day we visited, you could see that hundreds of people had placed candles and kept the wicks burning, over the course of two weeks. There were so many candles and flowers placed that you had to walk in the street to avoid stepping on them. To see a sight as serene as this, in a country hardly on the media’s radar, is something I’ll never forget. I feel honored to have witnessed evidence of how people all over the world bond together when something as devastating as the attacks in Paris occur.