What my husband was actually fantasizing about was renting a seaside house on some tropical island and having all of our friends come to celebrate his 50th birthday. But he came up with a much more romantic plan: The two of us would go to Paris for a long weekend.
We flew on the overnight flight from San Francisco on Thursday, November 12 and landed in Paris on Friday the 13th, just hours before the coordinated terrorist attacks took place. We were having dinner in the Marais and so were not in immediate danger from the attack, as we were not in the same arrondisement as the Bataclan and various cafes, nor were we at the stadium. In the taxi on the way back to our hotel, travel-tired and dreamy, I remember thinking that the sirens sounded like wounded donkeys, hee-haw, hee-haw. But I also remember thinking that the night was very, very loud.
We all know what was actually going on in Paris that night, and most of my friends and family, after checking in to make sure we were okay, were wondering if we were packing up and heading to the airport. We weren't. We watched CNN just like so many Americans did, slept fitfully with darkened dreams, and awoke to a new world.
Everything but the restaurants and cafes closed for three days of mourning. The State Department wanted Americans sheltering-in-place. But my husband woke up early and I walked out of our hotel to be with the Parisians who were out in force, too. We were not being stupid. We were being good friends, like the French have been to us. And as Americans, to be beside our friends in a time of crisis was the right place to be. We were proud to say that we were Americans and happy to show that it was not courage that brought all of us outside to enjoy a beautiful November day, but that it was l'esprit de la vie, the spirit of life, and that we Americans share that with the French.