I was working from home, taking a quick break from boring spreadsheets to cook up an uninspired lunch of rice and hot dogs. It would have been a fancier meal including mac and cheese, but we were out of pasta. What a dull, typical day. I added pasta to the grocery list and waited for the water to boil.

My cell phone rang. “Hi honey,” I said, answering the call from my husband. “What’s up?”

“There’s just been a shooting at Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper.”

My stomach dropped. France isn’t a country that often has shootings. Guns are rare, and killings are even rarer.

I numbly poked the bag of rice with a fork as my husband filled me in.

Ten journalists and two police officers were killed by masked gunmen who had invaded the offices. It was clearly an attack of terrorism, aimed not only to kill people but to suppress freedom of speech, a freedom that France and other democratic nations hold dear. It was premeditated, which means that these creeps had sat around some apartment not so far from mine hatching this horrifying plan.

The attack happened right around the corner from my son’s doctor’s office. The same office my son has an appointment at in two weeks. It’s about a mile from my house. I could walk there in 15 minutes.

This, literally, hit too close to home.

“Sorry, but I better get back to work,” my husband said. “See you tonight. I love you.”

“I love you, too,” I said, still in shock. I couldn’t wait for him to get home with our two babies in tow, after picking them up from daycare. I wanted to hug and squeeze all three of them, touch their faces, and cover them with one too many kisses.

“Hi honey,” I said, when my husband called again at the end of the day.

“Hi,” he said, exhaling as if he hadn’t exhaled his whole subway journey home. He probably hadn’t.

We chatted until he reached the daycare, where he punched in the digicode to a door that wouldn’t open.

“What the hell? Why won’t the code work?”

“Heck if I know,” I helpfully replied.

“Oh, hold on, someone’s coming,” he said.

I overheard their conversation from my end of the line. In addition to the required four-digit code, the door had been locked with a key all the schools and daycares in Paris had, since the country had been put on the highest level terror alert after the morning’s attacks.

That’s when the true horror of the day’s events hit me. I’d initially processed the information intellectually, quickly, efficiently. Then I’d returned to work.

But now, when I imagined those bastards storming into my kids’ daycare, guns blazing, all because of a freaking cartoon they didn’t like, this Mama Bear’s heart started racing. I am mad, horrified and afraid for the attack on freedom of speech, for the people who died, their families and for my little family. 

They came home, safe and sound. My kids were oblivious to it all, of course. They ate dinner, as usual (surprise—hot dogs!). They had baths, as usual. We sang bedtime songs, as usual. I gave them each a hug and a kiss and told them I loved them, as usual.

And then I gave them each an extra hug and kiss. Because in a day full of senseless violence, just steps from my home, my people were safe. I was lucky to be able to hold them in my arms and give them an extra hug, so I did.


Vicki Lesage proves daily that raising two French kids isn't as easy as the hype lets on. In her three minutes of spare time per week, she writes, sips bubbly, and prepares for the impending zombie apocalypse. She lives in Paris with her French husband, rambunctious son, and charming daughter, all of whom mercifully don't laugh when she says "au revoir." She penned two books, Confessions of a Paris Party Girl and Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer, in between diaper changes and wine refills. She writes about the ups and downs of life in Paris at VickiLesage.com.

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