Paris, Jan 17: US Secretary of State John Kerry this Friday remembered the day of the living nightmare that began at Charlie Hebdo and expressed personally the “sheer horror and revulsion that all Americans felt for the cowardly and despicable act, the assault on innocent lives and on fundamental values.”
Speaking at Hotel de Ville, Mr. Kerry said: “he was here to share a hug with all of Paris and all of France. “Your commitment to liberty and freedom of expression inspires the world, Mr. Kerry remarked adding, “I can’t begin to tell you how moved I was to see people come together near and far during the (unity) march. What was intended to tear us apart has brought us together. That is what the extremists fear the most. But make no mistake: what the extremists and the thugs and the terrorists do not understand and what they cannot understand is that brave and decent people will never give in to intimidation and terror – not now, not ever.”
Mr.Kerry said there are passionate debates over the complex issues this tragedy (Charlie Hebdo) has raised. But what should be beyond debate, beyond the scope of politics or religion, satire or culture, is the common aspiration to create a world rich in love and short on hate. So today at the Hotel de Ville, I join you in honoring those no longer with us and share with their loved ones the sadness of their loss but pride in their lives.
No doubt, Mr. Kerry emphasised, you will tell them about Ahmed Merabet, who was a pillar in his community, a family man, and passionate about his job as a police officer. You will tell them about how Ahmed rushed to the offices of Charlie Hebdo and came toe-to-toe with the terrorists before he was savagely and senselessly gunned down in the street. In a tribute to his brother, Malek Merabet said: My brother was a Muslim, and he was killed by people who pretended to be Muslims. They are terrorists. That’s all.
Mr.Kerry went on to observe: “in the darkness we can summon great light. French mothers and fathers will long tell their children and grandchildren that in these nine days that followed the horrors of January 7th, ordinary men and women became heroes at a moment’s notice. No doubt you will tell them about Lassana Bathily, a Muslim man from Mali who risked his life to save Jewish customers at the Hyper Cacher market. When he heard the gunman break into the store, he didn’t think of himself or his own safety; he helped more than a dozen customers hide downstairs in the stockroom’s cooler. He got word to the police, and in doing so, he saved lives. Asked why he did it, Lassana said simply: “We are brothers. It’s not a question of Jews or Christians or Muslims. We’re all in the same boat. We have to help each other to get out of the crisis.”
The Secretary of State thanked French President Hollande, his friend Laurent Fabius, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, for the grit and the grace that they have shown “at this moment of testing for France. He also thanked the US embassy personnel and ambassador, Jane Hartley, for their hard work and the support to the French people this past week.
Mr. Kerry reiterated the over-riding spirit of the American people by stating, “I represent a nation grateful each day that France is our oldest ally. And just as Lafayette crossed the Atlantic some 234 years ago to help America; just as General Pershing and his men proclaimed their arrival on the shores of France a century ago with the words, “Lafayette, we are here”; just as we tackle today’s most daunting challenges side by side, the United States and France will always stand together. We will persevere and we will prevail.”
Recalling his mother’s own experience, Mr kerry said It was she who instilled in him a special love for France and taught him the history she had lived herself during the darkest days of World War II. An American born in Paris, she had become a nurse and was treating the wounded at Montparnasse. The day before the Nazis entered the city, she escaped with her sister on a bicycle and proceeded to forge her way across France while German fighters were strafing them. She eventually made her way to Portugal where she boarded a ship that brought her back to the United States.