On June 6th of this year, I celebrated by 60th birthday by having lunch with my daughter, Katherine, and her boyfriend, Max, at Jules Verne, an amazing restaurant on the second level of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was a beautiful, clear day with one of the best 360 degree views of the landscape of Paris.
The atmosphere at Jules Verne is formal and exclusive with male waiters at attention to meet any of our culinary needs at any moment. Course after course were placed before us and were described by our ever-present headwaiter. Most of these beautiful and colorful plates of food were delicious; however, we had no idea what we were eating until most of the course was finished. Lunch lasted about three hours and I felt like I was in a coma state on the Uber ride back to the apartment I had rented for the month.
As we approached the Notre Dame area, our driver found he was being rerouted at every road that would take us to the Saint Michel area where we could drive down one street and be at our place. There were police, police trucks, police dogs and the heavy feel in the air that something was very wrong right down the street from where I was living for this month. Our driver rolled his window down and was informed by the police there was an ‘incident’ at Notre Dame and we should find our way to the apartment ASAP, get inside and lock ourselves in.
At that point, no one knew how big the incident was, how many ‘terrorists’, as they were described later on CNN, were involved and to what degree of danger we were in. Each route he tried was cordoned off. I could not imagine what else we could do but walk, so we got out at the corner and walked as quickly as we could to the apartment, got in and locked down.
There ended up being a lone person who attacked a policeman just outside of Notre Dame with a kitchen knife and hammer. Yet, the action of this disturbed person created the intensity and heightened anxiety of all of us who were directly impacted. All of the hundreds of tourists inside Notre Dame were locked in and made to put their hands on their heads and stay put. This is not what they signed up for as they initially entered the cathedral. This is not what I planned on either, however there is an inherent risk in travel. It is unfortunate, but does not stop many of us from traveling anyway.
It took the rest of the late afternoon into the evening to neutralize the situation and make it safe for us to go out and about. I was out as soon as it seemed safe enough. It’s not that I invite these incidents yet, for some reason, danger does not seem so dangerous to me. I might be in denial, but hiding inside an apartment or not traveling at all is not an option for me. I have wanderlust. I must plan for the next trip as soon as I’ve returned from the most recent one.
Here is my motto. If something happens wherever I am in my travels, if I don’t make it…I don’t make it. If I am involved in a terrorist situation and I do survive, my hope is I am well enough to help those around me. Living in fear is not an option for me. It is a waste of time. What I did realize in those moments with Katherine and Max inside the apartment, like anyone experiencing scary times together, strangers or loved ones, there is a bond that forms during these times that can last a lifetime. Honesty in thoughts and emotion were amazing and we became ever more in the moment with each other than we normally would have.
I am grateful that my daughter was with me during these times. It brought us even closer and we knew that no matter what…everything was going to be okay.
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com