Happy Thanksgiving everybody and congratulations to Mayor-elect John Tecklenburg. He seems like a decent, measured fellow with a good set of priorities who will do a good job. I don’t know him personally, but his mamma and mine go to the same beauty parlor, which in the South qualifies as a major connection. So well done, Bubba!
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The recent terror attacks in Paris have proven that ISIS in not contained and that U.S. strategy to help deal with the problem isn’t working. Two Charleston ladies — Pringle Franklin and Constance Anastopoulo — who have been spending some time in Paris have captured the enormous frustration and heartache of the situation. I asked both to submit comments for this column and they obligingly consented.
(Edited for brevity.)
Mrs. Franklin was taking a road trip through Belgium when the attacks occurred. “We were just crawling into our warm beds in a hotel in Brugge, settling down with books on a cold, rainy night, when my husband received a text.
“ ‘Oh no,’ he said, and then read me the message from his sister hoping we weren’t near any of the explosions. Our son pulled up more information, and that familiar sense of dread washed over me. Once again, people were losing their lives simply for living in freedom. I felt helpless and afraid. And now the borders were closed. What would that mean when we tried to return to Paris?
“During the weekend, as we toured the charming medieval cities, it was hard to shake the sense of sorrow. At one point I came into a courtyard of an ancient church to find a cellist playing in open air. I was reminded that mankind was still capable of such ethereal sounds, reassuring me that the world was not darkened and cowering to evil.
“It was moonless and foggy night that Monday after the attacks when we approached the French border. Just north of the border, our Google map feature redirected us to a smaller road, saying it would be 35 minutes faster. We made the switch and came into France without any incident.
“’That was easy,’ I said.
“’Yes,’ said Sam. “Let’s hope the terrorists aren’t using Google maps too.’
“It wasn’t long, though, before we were back on a major highway and at a congested checkpoint. The French policemen, dressed in black uniforms and black boots, didn’t mess around. They held up large flashlights to illuminate your face and, if you appeared non-Arab, you were waved on your way. Basically, the policemen were looking for jihadists, and they were not going to bother anyone not fitting the profile.
“Thirty minutes later we hit a second checkpoint. The approach to Paris was visibly different. The streetlights were dark and the atmosphere was black and eerie. Our roadway was deserted but, on the other side of the median, cars were streaming away from the city. ‘It feels like a hurricane evacuation, and we are the only fools driving the wrong way,’ I quipped to Sam.
“The overall vibe in Paris was jumpy because we all know the unsettling truth: There will be more attacks, whether in Paris, Brussels or London. There are too many jihadist cells in Europe for authorities to find them all. And the jihadists are using the very freedoms that are the cornerstone of our Western values as the means of walking unharassed and undetected among us.
“People are grieving for those killed, injured and the loss of peace of mind. Paris, so infinitely appealing, alluring and beckoning, which once stretched out before us, now lies curled up in a fetal position.
“ ‘Come home,’ people tell us. But it is not yet time.
“We cannot leave Paris, not when she needs us to stand by her, hold her hand, and reassure her that love is always stronger than hate.”
Mrs. Anastopoulo reports that she and hers are safe, but were right in the apartment at 16th Arrondissement when the attacks occurred, not far from the concert hall where most of the carnage took place. “When we learned about the shootings,” she writes, “the first emotions were fear and panic.
“We really didn’t know what was happening. As the details emerged, Paris was absolutely on edge. A state of emergency was declared and a curfew was issued. We were told to stay in our apartments. It was very tense, and we spent most of the night trying to discover what and where the events had occurred and whether the danger was ongoing.
“I think all who live here are in disbelief that this could occur (again.) Many wonder if this beautiful City of Light and open cafes will be forever changed. We fear that it will never be the same.”
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Thanks so much ladies. And hopefully good will find a way to triumph over this evil ideological menace.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.