Fluctuat Nec Mergitur: French People Stand Strong after Devastating Attacks

“Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” – despite high tides and stormy waters, we do not sink. This deep-rooted Parisien saying was put to the test on Friday, November 13, when the city of Paris was targeted with a line of terrorist attacks, including hostages, suicide bombings, and mass shootings, killing 130 people.


Seattle Shows its support

The first attack took place just outside the Stade de France, where a France vs. Germany a soccer game was occurring. Spectators and players heard the suicide bombing that occurred  outside the walls of the stadium, which ended up killing one bystander.

Only minutes after the first bomb, two gunmen attacked a café, La Carillon, and a restaurant, Le Petit Cambodge, in close vicinity to each other. In this attack, 15 were killed and 10 injured. In other shootings at a restaurant called Casa Nostra, a café called La Bonne Bierre, and a laundromat, 5 were killed and 8 injured. About five minutes after, there was another shooter who fired for about three minutes straight at another local eatery named La Belle Equipe, killing 19 and injuring 9.

Across the city, at the Bataclan Concert Hall, more tragedy developed. Three men walked into the hall and fired for about 15 minutes. The remaining survivors were held hostage for 2 hours, and once the police arrived, the men blew themselves up, taking many innocent lives with them. In total, 89 were killed and more than 220 were injured.

French officials believe it was a group of three different teams behind the attacks, with eight of the attackers already dead, and two of the remaining sought by the police. The terrorist attacks were the largest of ongoing conflicts between France and the Islamic State, and France declared a state of emergency, closing all of their borders.

Cities all over the world have shown their support by lighting up buildings with red, white, and blue in honor of the French flag. In Seattle, both the CenturyLink Field stadium and the Great Wheel turned changed colors, showing their support to France.

A few members of the Annie Wright community have strong ties to France. Upper School French teacher Olivier Soustelle, who was born and raised in France until his early twenties, has friends and family there, and his wife and daughters lived there all of last year. As he heard about the attacks, he had many reactions, the first of which was surprise, but it quickly turned into gratitude.

“Of course I was terribly shocked,” he said, “but what I would emphasize is how very touched I was by the reaction of the people at Annie Wright that cared for me and came to me and had a genuine and heartfelt concern for my family. This moved me, and yes I was troubled, and I am worried about the future, but we need to respond to this by living our lives normally. The best measure that we can have for the people is to continue living our lives to the fullest. The people of Paris are joyful, and we are called the city of light for a reason. We have been through wars and famines and terrible things before, and the people of France are strong and never lose hope.”

Another Annie Wright community member, Day School Admissions Director Joy Phelps, has strong ties to France, both from visiting France as a young girl and as an adult, and because she has family in Paris. When she first heard about the attacks, her first reaction was “tragic.” Then she quickly wondered if everyone she knew was okay, and if anyone with connections to Annie Wright was okay. She commented on the reaction of France: “It’s been fascinating to see the strength of the French people and how they are responding to the horror, and reminds me of how the United States responded to 9/11. It begs us to ask the question, do we let this defeat us, or power through it and stay strong?” She also stressed the fact that “it could happen anywhere, at anytime,” and that “we need to be prepared, but not close ourselves off because of fear.”

Jean-Adrien Domage, a Paris resident and close friend of Annie Wright junior Emmanuelle Beaurpere, was nearby one of the attacks on Friday evening, experiencing the tragedy first hand. “It was horrible,” he said. We are angry and today we will weep for our dead. Tomorrow we will make war without hate and without regret. We will do all we can so that they did not die in vain. All of the schools and public places are closed and our borders are shut.”

Beaurpere’s father is French, and she has visited France many times and speaks French fluently. The attacks had a direct impact on her, as well as many others, because of all of her special connections to France and its people.

Moroccan-Belgian terrorist Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected lead operative of the attacks, was killed in a police raid on November 18.