IMG_5518It seems impossible to ignore the sad events that came to my beloved town.

They are uncharacteristic. As I have remarked before, this is a small, sleepy town where young children and old ladies walk around on their own with no problems. It’s not as gentrified and Disneyfied as the villages of Provence that attract droves of tourists and where real estate is now out of reach for people with modest salaries, like teachers. Carcassonne, and the region around it, remains modestly rooted in the past.IMG_5824On Friday, I was in Trèbes. Not in the supermarket, though we shop there often. But I was in the crowd on the corner, as close as the gendarmes would allow. Many of the people gathered were immigrants. The older people were livid that a young delinquent was bringing unflattering attention to their community. They had businesses. They loved France.IMG_4637Later, I was near the low-income housing project where the attacker lived. It was built in the 1950s for workers of the Salsigne gold mine, who were a mixed lot of nationalities. Keep in mind that while France suffered in World War II, other countries were much poorer in the postwar years. Working in a gold mine, despite the risks, was a path to a better life. Even for locals–several of our older friends worked at the mine, which is in the mountains about 10 miles north of Carcassonne. When it closed in 2004, it was a mixed blessing, as often is the case–it was good to end the environmental disaster, but the loss of jobs was devastating. The neighborhood was named after Frédéric Ozanam, a founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Its mundanity feels a world away from the historic Cité.

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Where the locals came under attack in the crusade of 1209.

The neighborhood was quiet and tidy. Not a speck of litter on the ground. No graffiti. It was clearly very modest. It’s the worst neighborhood in town, but worst is relative. A boy and a girl, about 8 or 10 years old, played basketball on a nice court, unsupervised. A knot of maybe 20 young men hugged each other. We talked for about 15 minutes. I could see their minds churning–how to process the news, how to react, which side to take. They were emotional but mostly respectful. I read that their tempers got away from them later, when journalists arrived en masse.P1090734A block from the young men, an old woman was pushing her walker down the center of the street–easier than navigating up and down curbs and around light poles. This spoke volumes. She must live there, since she was on foot, heading toward the main street, where there are some shops. She felt safe about going out alone. She even felt confident that any car that might come along would brake and wait for her to get onto the sidewalk. At the corner, she was one door away from where the military jogger was shot that same morning.

P1090735
The people gathered are journalists interviewing a neighbor directly across from the shooting.

The next day, Saturday, was sad. The brave gendarme, Arnaud Beltrame, died of his injuries. It seemed as if the skies opened to cry for him. The market went on, life went on, though more hushed than usual. I still saw little old ladies out for their groceries, walking alone. Because one wrong man cannot undo us all.P1090738

 

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60 thoughts on “One Bad Apple

  1. Just wanted you to know that I am deeply sorry this terrible thing hit so close to home. Hopeful that, as a community, you can get through this together. If we could only see that we are more alike than different and focus on our shared humanity, not our differences. Love to you all…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I thought of you immediately when I heard where this attack took place. I know how much you love your village and your region of France. I pray that healing has begun and that you all will be able to return to your beautiful way of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your title is perfect. I live (presently) in a city that has a huge North African Muslim community both in the very heart of the old city and in the modern sprawl to the south. What happened on Friday is tragic but the French people be they native, étrangers or North African descent will not be cowed. We have proved that time and time again. We should not have to. I am so sorry that you were so close to this incident. I thought of you and others in the vicinity instantly. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair. But when one is dealing with the indoctrinated we have not reason to reason. You live in an area that has seen much war. The 100 years, the purge of the Cathars. It is ironic that you should have suffered at the will of one who feels that he is the persecuted, n’est-ce pas? Arnaud Beltrame is a martyr in the true sense of the word. He traded his life knowingly for an innocent. We have many Gendarme friends. In fact we had a Gendarmerie Guard d’Honeur at our wedding five years ago … that he walked into the den knowing he would never walk out is unsurprising to me. These men and women are a breed apart = police soldiers they are extraordinarily brave. I will be watching with tears when the reportage from Les Invalides plays out tomorrow and I will remember that a woman and her family (that/s you) were spared and that I am grateful. This is a beautifully constructed piece to be proud of. That this pride is born of tragedy is sad but this is the world we have created.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I think they are mostly lost. Lost makes you vulnerable and vulnerability makes you prey to those who want to convert an army of miscreants. All we can do is be decent. All we can do is be kind. All we can do is continue to be good, not run away from people by dint of their skin colour or their belief system. But in the end, there will be those that are indoctrinated into believing that they will gain a shining place by doing evil. Misguided, sadly lacking in understanding and probably hurting, they will bring pain. We must persevere and we will prevail but it will be a long time coming.

        Liked by 5 people

  4. I am humbled by this beautiful tribute to those who lost something and to those who stand strong. And moved by Osyth’s heartfelt prose. Nothing further to add but sincere condolences to all affected.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Bonjour. Kudos for another great story about France. This one was not an easy one to live through, or to write about, I am certain. I have ties in the Trèbes community where my uncle’s career as a Lieutenant Colonel with the Gendarmerie unfolded mostly happily for many years. Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame’s bravery and tragic death have touched me, and so many others, deeply. Thank you for mentioning him here. I have just shared your story with the French Girl in Seattle Facebook community. Merci. — Véronique

    Liked by 3 people

  6. You have put into words what I hope most people feel. It is so very true – one bad apple – can have such an effect, and change the life of so many. We have to show compassion…..hate can’t be allowed to win.
    Thought about you all weekend.
    Ali

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Our hearts have been heavy since hearing the news of Friday. Our prayers have been with all those who live in that area…I didn’t realize you and your family were so close to what happened. All we can do is be kind and understanding to each other despite our differences. Those differences is what make each of us special and interesting. Please know that candles and prayers are being lit/said daily for all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I didn’t know the incident was in your part of the country. I’m sorry.

    It’s a shock when an act of this kind of violence happens, so close to home. Some years ago with the attack at our War Memorial by a lone wolf actor, I was a few blocks away at an appointment.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I venture briefly back online to tell you that this is a wonderful, thoughtful post; truly respectful and truly heartfelt.

    A tribute to the Gendarme, the National Gendarmerie, and to all those who rise each day and live the best life they can.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautifully touching post. I didn’t know it was your town, just a sleepy little town like so many that you never think violence and tragedy would fine its way to. Prayers especially for Lt. Col Beltrame’s new wife and his family.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thoughts are with you all. We are also in a sleepy little town and cannot imagine anything like that happening. Take care and I hope that this was the first and the last of this kind of thing happening. Thoughts are with all the families who suffered and lost loved ones.
    Take care Diane

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Speaking for the young men who lost their tempers with journalists: a tragedy in my small town a few years ago brought journalists in droves and their behavior greedy, thoughtless, with no respect for those of us who were still alive. The worst face of humanity was brought to town by the journalists. My sympathies to all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This was our local supermarket for 15 years when we first moved to France. The butcher who died (and his colleague who was interviewed on French TV) were always very helpful as I got used to the french cuts of meat. As I watched the live newsfeed last Friday I was phoning round friends who still live in the area checking they were OK. Today I have watched some of the memorial service for the brave gendarme who died.
    Thank you for showing how the locals are sad but not afraid – life will go on.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Such a beautiful post after a horrific event. I was shocked when I read the news that this happened in an area we love and a village we had visited. And my first thought went to you knowing you live nearby. Even though I don’t know you personally, I have come to know you through this blog, always looking forward to the next post. And I was worried for you. I was struck by discussion amongst our friends saying this is the reason they don’t travel abroad and think we are brave to do it. Through this post you have brought the reader into this village and the normal lives people live. It could be anywhere, anytime. Again thank you for your posts and allowing us into you life. My sympathies to your lovely community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was a mass shooting, with far more people killed, a few years ago in my US hometown. If the shooter hadn’t yelled something about ISIS, nobody would have paid attention beyond the local news. It would have been a huge deal here, because it’s such an aberration, but nobody beyond would have cared. Anyway, as I point out, it still is very, very safe here.

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  15. I couldn’t express my thoughts and feelings any better than your friends and yourself have done it already. We know Carcassonne from previous visits and we loved all of it and also the little villages surrounding C. Don’t know whether we came to Trèbes.
    What I greatly admire in the French is their will of not letting such horrible events break them. That they continue to go out and live their lifes.
    Your words describing this tragic event are nearly too poignant and beautiful to read, the expressed thoughts of your readers just underline all of it and I bow in humbleness to you all. It also gives hope to see that MOST people are still honest, good, caring and that we all should keep up our efforts to be good, caring towards each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The deeds of just one person should not reflect on the community. Your words and the ones of your readers are an eye opening to the life in rural France and in other countries as well.
    Carcassonne was and is still on my list of places to visit my next trip to Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. It’s saddening to think this beautiful little town has been visited by such horror. Brava to everyone for enduring and starting, again, and drawing near to one another. Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

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