Paris attacks / National tribute to the victims
On Friday 13 November, that day we’ll never forget, France was cravely attacked, in an act of war organized from afar and coldly executed. A horde of murderers killed 130 of our people and wounded hundreds, in the name of a mad cause and a god betrayed.
Today the entire nation, its whole people, mourn the victims: 130 names, 130 lives snatched away, 130 destinies struck down, 130 laughs never to be heard again, 130 voices silenced forever. Those women, those men embodied the joy of living. It was because they were life that they were killed. It was because they were France that they were gunned down. It was because they were freedom that they were massacred.
At such a solemn and painful moment as this, when the nation stands united, I extend, on its behalf, our compassion, our warmth and our concern to the families and close friends gathered here in that same calamity. Parents who will no longer see their child, children who will grow up without their parents, couples broken by the loved one’s loss, brothers and sisters separated for all time. A hundred and thirty dead and so many wounded, forever bearing the scars, the deep scars, traumatized to the core of their being.
So I simply want to say these words: France will stand by you. We’ll combine our strength to ease the pain, and after we’ve buried the dead, our responsibility will be to heal the living.
To all of you, I solemnly promise that France will do everything to destroy the army of fanatics who committed these crimes, that it will act without respite to protect its children. I also promise you that France will continue to be itself, to be the France loved by those who have disappeared, the France they would have wanted it to remain. And if any reason were needed to stay standing today, any reason to fight for our principles, any reason to defend this Republic that is our common good, we’ll find it in their memory.
Those women, those men came from more than 50 communes of France. From cities, towns, suburbs and villages. They also came from around the world: 17 countries are mourning with us today.
On that Friday 13 November, those women and men were in Paris, a city that venerates ideas, a city that pulsates by day and glows by night. They sat outside the cafés, those gathering places receptive to meetings and ideas. They shared meals tasting of the world, on that evening when it seemed autumn would never end. They sang in the Bataclan to the sounds of an American band that performed, in friendship, at a hall which, for two centuries, has encapsulated the spirit of Paris.
Those men and women were of all ages, but most of them were under 35. They were children when the Berlin Wall came down, and they didn’t have time to believe in the end of history: it had already caught up with them by 11 September 2001. They understood then that the world was threatened by new perils. The attacks at the beginning of this year deeply shocked them. I know that many were keen to demonstrate on 11 January, like millions of French people. They expressed their refusal to give in to the terrorist threat. They knew France is the enemy of no people, that its soldiers go wherever they’re called for, to protect the weakest and not to satisfy any urge for domination.
Those women and men were the youth of France, the youth of a free people that cherishes its culture – its own culture, in other words all cultures.
Many of the Bataclan victims had made music their profession. It was that music which the terrorists could not tolerate. It was that harmony which they wanted to break, shatter. It was that joy which they wanted to bury under the din of their bombs.
Well, they won’t stop it. And to respond to them better, we’ll have more songs, concerts and shows; we’ll continue going to stadiums, and particularly that so aptly-named stadium, the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. We’ll take part both in the major sporting events and the smallest matches, and we’ll also be united in the same emotions, setting aside our differences, our backgrounds, our skin colour, our beliefs, our creeds, our faiths, because we are one single nation, driven by the same values.
What do the terrorists want? To divide us, to pit us against one another. I assure you they will fail. They worship death, but we have love, the love of life.
Those who died on 13 November were France, the whole of France. They were students, journalists, teachers, caterers, engineers, drivers, lawyers, graphic designers, architects, carpenters, waiters, photographers, civil servants, advertisers, sales people and artists. They were the professions of France, the talents of the world. They all wanted to succeed, for themselves, for their families and for their countries. We’ll always recall their faces, their names, their hopes, their joys and their shattered dreams.
We know the enemy: it’s hatred, the hatred which kills in Bamako, Tunis, Palmyra, Copenhagen and Paris, and which killed before in London and Madrid. The enemy is the fanaticism that wants to subject humanity to an inhuman system, it’s obscurantism – in other words, a distorted Islam that renounces the message of its own holy book. We’ll defeat that enemy together, with our strength, the strength of the Republic; with our weapons, the weapons of democracy; with our institutions; and with the law. In this battle, we can count on our soldiers, engaged in difficult operations in Syria, Iraq and the Sahel. We can count on our police, our gendarmes, working with the courts, who again conducted themselves admirably to neutralize the terrorists.
We can count on Parliament to adopt all necessary measures to defend our country’s interests, in a spirit of national harmony and with respect for fundamental liberties. And most particularly, we can count on every French woman and man to display vigilance, resolve, humanity and dignity.
We’ll pursue this battle to the end, and we’ll win it by remaining true to the very idea of France. What is this? A way of life, a fierce determination to be together, an attachment to laïcité [secularism] (1), a sense of nationhood and a trust in our collective destiny.
I say to you today: we will not change. We’ll remain united, united on what’s most essential. And here before you and your families, I applaud the innumerable gestures made by so many anonymous French people, who flocked to the site of the tragedies to light a candle or leave flowers, a message, a drawing. If we are looking for a word to describe that impulse, that word is part of the Republic’s motto: fraternity.
And what can we say about the mobilization of all our public services to bring relief and assistance to the victims, to work with survivors, to provide support for loved ones? And the admirable medical staff? Their efforts, too, reflect what we are: a country of solidarity.
Everything that has happened since 13 November is marked by gravity, an awareness of the challenges facing our country. Those who fell on 13 November embodied our values, and now more than ever it is our duty to keep these values alive.
We will not give in to fear or hatred. And if we feel anger, we will use it to calmly and resolutely defend our day-to-day freedom – that is, the will to make France a great country, proud of its history, its way of life, its culture, its influence, its universal ideal, and the respect and even passion that our country inspires around the world whenever it is harmed.
I won’t forget the images from around the globe, all marking the sacrifice of those who fell in Paris, as though the entire world were in mourning.
The patriotism we are now seeing, expressed through proudly flying flags, spontaneous gatherings, crowds singing the Marseillaise – this has nothing to do with some sort of revenge instinct or some sort of rejection of the other. This patriotism is the symbol of our union, of our unwavering resistance to any blows rained upon us, for despite the tragedy, despite the bloodshed, France preserves intact its principles of hope and tolerance.
This ordeal has hurt us all deeply – the families first, but all French people, regardless of their situation, their faith or their background. This ordeal has hurt us all deeply, but it will make us stronger. I’m going to express to you my confidence in the next generation. Young people of previous generations experienced tragic events in the prime of their lives that forged their identity. The attack of 13 November will remain in the memories of today’s young people as a terrible initiation to the harshness of the world, but also as an invitation to confront it by inventing a new form of commitment. I know that this generation will steadfastly bear the torch we are passing on to it.
I am sure that it will have the courage to take full ownership of our nation’s future. It has been entrusted with this great and noble task by the tragedy that struck the martyrs of 13 November. Freedom does not asked to be avenged, but to be served. I applaud this new generation. It was attacked but it is not afraid, it is clear-minded and enterprising, just like those innocents we are mourning. I am convinced that it will be great. It will live, it will live fully, in the name of the dead for whom we grieve today.
Despite the tears, this generation has now become the face of France.
Long live the Republic and long live France!
(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.