It seems impossible now but I was just writing an email to a friend and in response to her question, “How are your children?”, I typed “Brendan is in Paris.” Then the phone rang. It was Forrest, in Ottawa, asking if we’d heard about the attacks in Paris and was there any news of Brendan. I’d been in the garden and John in the printshop so the radio was quiet. No, we didn’t know about Paris. A quick call to Cristen who said she’d had a good-night message from Brendan on his return to his hotel from dinner with friends. She thought he’d gone to bed. And his phone was turned off.
There are no words for the horror of what happened yesterday. Maybe we will find some. I thought of the young couple in the bakery in Bordeaux in March saying that they were hoping to come to Canada. And the concierge at our hotel in Toulouse, saying he wanted to move his family to Montreal. Those beautiful cities with their ancient churches, their fountains, their monuments. Yet there is no safety. Just when it’s least expected — a soccer game, a concert, a meal in a restaurant on a Friday evening. My own son sleeping in a hotel while around him sirens, ambulances taking away the wounded, the dead. I can’t make sense of it.
In the night, in response to the message I’d sent, three words on the screen of my tablet. “Yep, I’m fine.” And no more, because what can anyone say? Yet?
When I woke, I thought of Carolyn Forché’s The Angel of History:
In the night-vaulted corridors of the Hôtel-Dieu it is winter.
If a city, ruin, if an animal, hunger.
If a grave, anonymous.
If a century, this.