Berkshires expresses sympathy for, solidarity with, victims of Paris attacks


Berkshires residents too were swept up in a wave of sympathy and solidarity with France in the wake of brutal terror attacks that killed 129 and injured 352 in Paris on Friday night.

While some local people displayed lawn signs, posted sympathy on Facebook or overlaid their profile pictures with the French flag's three vertical red-white-and-blue bars, others reflected on personal experiences in the country and the city.

Susan Lyman, a Lenox attorney who formerly taught high school French and was born in the country, said she would burn a candle in her window on Saturday for those affected by the attacks — a request being circulated by French friends on Facebook.

"Your reaction is utter disbelief because it's so barbaric," Lyman said. "My first thoughts were of all the people I know in Paris, wanting to know they were OK."

Lyman contacted some friends in the country and learned of the safety of others via a relatively new Facebook application that was able to confirm individuals' locations away from Friday's several scenes of violence as the horrific events unfolded.

"I hate to say it, but once you account for all the chickens in the coup there is a certain sense of relief, but you're still left with the horrible death toll," Lyman said. "I have a number of friends raising children in the outskirts of Paris. What do you say?"

When Lyman last visited Paris two years ago, she said she and her husband stayed at a hotel very near the scene of Friday's attack. She described the neighborhood as "young and vibrant," located between the Bastille and Place de la République.

A former French teacher, Lyman expressed dismay that "local high schools probably won't be signing off on trips to Paris this year."

Six separate violent incidents struck Paris in a coordinated fashion on Friday, including several shootings and grenade explosions near a Paris stadium where a soccer game was underway.

In the worst of these, scores of people held hostage at a concert hall when several attackers detonated explosive belts, causing heavy casualties.

According to The Associated Press, when the attacks were over, eight attackers were dead — seven of them in suicide explosions, one killed by security forces in the music venue.

Jean-Noël Chazelle, a French artist whose abstract work was on display in North Adams in 2007 and 2009, released a statement on the attacks to The Eagle.

"We are very sad," Chazelle said. "What has been attacked in Paris is what matters most to us: culture and freedom. This is the pleasure to go out, have a drink, a nice conversation, dinner with friends, watch a match at the stadium or enjoy a rock band. That seems to bother some cowards."

He continued, "This is beyond any religion or principle. Nobody has that right to destroy, kill another being with whom he disagrees. We will stand up and face the stupidity. The 21st century will not be compromised by ignorance."

Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, joined fellow faith leaders around the world in condemning the attacks on Saturday.

"Let our prayers also be for a true and enduring peace among people of all faith traditions," Rozanski said in a statement. "Let us re-commit ourselves to a better dialogue and understanding among people of all religions, in the hope that this will be the most enduring response to such misguided acts of terror."

In speaking of the attacks on Saturday, Pope Francis said "there is no religious or human justification for it."

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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