Imagine all the People

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The tragedy of what occurred in Paris on the evening of the 13th November has caused a whirlwind of activity and discourse across the globe.

At 8pm on the 16th November 2015, at Theaterplatz in Heidelberg, a moment of serene silence helped us put these events into clearer focus.

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A few students, hailing mostly from France, whom I am proud to call friends here in Heidelberg, organised a small vigil to be held in the centre of Heidelberg.

And word spread, resulting in hundreds coming to pay their respects, from students, to local inhabitants of the city and local children.

Like a lot of people arriving, I arrived not knowing quite how to process what had happened and feeling a sense of powerlessness against the evil that happens in this world.

It was dark and windy and in the midst of trying to stop my candle from going out, I looked up and around the vigil.

In the whistling wind, hundreds of determined people were also shielding their candles patiently. Every candle that happened to flash out was carefully re-lit by many a willing arm.

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We first observed a period of silence and then waited to place our candles at makeshift shrines around us.

Looking back at these quiet, respectful moments, of tears and grief for some and quiet contemplation for others I no longer feel powerless.  It is in the small, gentle moments of contemplation that we can draw strength – in shielding and relighting that candle as long as it takes.

When a tragedy like this occurs, your first instinct is to make sure that your loved ones are okay.

You then ask others around you if their loved ones are okay.  Such are the bonds that bind us together.

One of the friends who organised the vigil has lost a friend to that dreadful night in Paris. Click here for the full story from Rhein-Neckar Zeitung

This friend is called Veronique de Bourgies and she will not live the life she was supposed to, a human tragedy among the many that happened in Paris and that happen cruelly every day across the world.

But on the 16th November, hundreds of people in Heidelberg came together to a quiet vigil and thought of her and the other victims.  This is a triumph of the human spirit.  There have been and there will be many more such triumphs of feeling across the world, to commemorate those we have lost.

There is a man in Paris at the moment, who keeps playing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine all the People’ as a tribute to what has happened.  Such is its beauty, this song has become a symbol against terrorism – it was sung by people in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks for instance.[1]

I don’t know how to process what happened in Paris, or how to imagine what those who have lost loved ones must be feeling, but our hearts go out to them and to those who lost their lives on that dark night in Paris.

We’re not powerless in the wake of all the evil things that happen in this world, but rather united in our human spirit.

There will be millions upon millions of words exchanged, both loudly and softly in the days, months and years ahead; a crescendo of noise and activity to try to find some semblance of meaning in a world that just got darker.

I’m thankful that the people of Heidelberg were able to gather for a special moment and that we could pay our respects together.

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bis nachste Mal,



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