Attacks reinforce French resolve

By Jenn Watt

Many Canadians felt the fear and anguish the French endured on Nov. 13 when co-ordinated terrorist attacks rocked Paris killing 129 but few had the additional burden of knowing someone directly in harm’s way.

Stuart Baker Elementary School teacher and Haliburton resident Marina Thomazo was one of those few.

Her nephew and brother were in the Stade de France watching a soccer game when three bombs were detonated outside the stadium.

“They told me they didn’t know until the end of the game actually that something had happened” said Thomazo who is originally from France. “They heard the noise but they didn’t know what happened.”

Outside the stadium a suicide bomber was stopped at the entrance. The man detonated the device outside the stadium killing himself and a bystander. Soon after two other suicide bombers also detonated their explosives near the stadium.

Thomazo knew that her relatives were in the stadium – they had posted photos online showing they were at the game – but it wasn’t until 6 a.m. the next day that she was able to get in touch with them.

Thanks to media coverage of the attacks despite not hearing from any of her relatives Thomazo surmised they were fine.

“It was a long night. I just felt in my heart that everything was OK” she says.

Thomazo grew up in France and her family still lives in that country. She moved to the Haliburton Highlands in 2009 to raise her family visiting her home country every two years.

Watching the attacks on Paris deeply affected Thomazo but also reinforced her sense of pride in the strength of the French.

“I think like everybody in France first [the reaction is] extreme sadness and you’re scared but the more you see about it the more you hear the more you read in the media … you just feel solidarity and feel that they won’t take our freedom away” she says.

Following the attacks which included 89 deaths at the Bataclan theatre and 39 deaths during street shootings the people of France responded with defiance returning to the streets the next day to resume their daily routines.

“I’m very proud of what the society can do with that kind of event and turn it into something positive actually” Thomazo says. “We don’t let terrorists take over our lifestyle and what we stand for.”

She is also heartened by the kind words and actions of the people of Haliburton and friends on social media.

“I saw a lot of my friends turning their picture on Facebook to my flag and also had one of my lovely neighbours send me some beautiful flowers” she says. Those who know she is from France have given her hugs and offered their condolences.

Thomazo hopes people around the world see that the attacks have only strengthened connections between people compassion and resolution.

“I would love for people to see that we are wounded but it makes us stronger in solidarity.”