It’s not often that our teenagers accompany us on a Sunday afternoon outing in Berlin. But today was different. Today we joined thousands of Berliners at Pariser Platz to remember the victims of last week’s terror attacks in France. As we were absorbed into the quiet calm that enveloped the massive crowd, my angst about bringing our children to the gathering quickly evaporated. There were no speeches, no clashes, no countervailing forces to thwart the simple expressions of sympathy and unity. The signs, pens, flowers and candles that were held high spoke louder than any voice that might have come from a podium.
Olivia, who is 15, had these thoughts: The winter air was frigid as a group of Berliners came together before the French embassy, their numbers swelling to 18 000 despite the cold. They assembled out of a sense of fraternity and empathy for the lives lost in the recent attack and to make their message clear: that freedom of the press, a basic right in all democratic countries, will not be infringed upon. Although the gathering was calm, quiet even, the air of solemnity only served to underscore the importance of the support for Charlie Hebdo, and of recognizing that acts of terror like that against the French newspaper are dangerous to everyone everywhere, as the right to one’s own opinions and the expression of them is a fundamental human right.
Photos courtesy of Avery Swarthout. Find more of his photos on Instagram @through_golden_eyes.