I had returned to the place that was home to me, where I’d lived from infancy until my teen years. I was eager to introduce my friend, Mari Ellen, to the City of Lights, a contradictory place at once shining and shadowed, forcible and fragile, analytical and artistic.
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While Mari Ellen took in a small museum near Notre Dame, I wandered to the tip of the Île de la Cité, found a tree to lean on, and settled into a couple hours of magic—book in hand, but incapable of reading because a city I loved buzzed in the air around me.

I knew its sounds and scents, its highlights and hazards, its tastes—all buttery, creamy and thyme-infused. This place formed the foundation of my global heritage.

So when news broke of the terror in Parisian streets on Friday, I watched American coverage on TV and streamed French coverage on my laptop, hearing the familiar dissonance between world views and culture-personalities.
I watched in horror, sickened and incensed. I wasn’t seeing a foreign location torn apart by unfathomable violence, its streets stained with lives snuffed out. Terrace tables overturned and flung about—like the lives of survivors, their futures upheavaled by the horror they’d escaped.
I was seeing my home—a home that still flows through my veins like the Seine and rises in my memory like its towering Eiffel. Like the Place de la République, it attests to my battles lost and won, reiterating a past that seems to fade as time flees on.
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Like so many Third Culture Kids whose lives are woven into a multi-national fabric, the breaking news resurrected my “otherness” and reconnected again the worlds that swirl around each other in the kaleidoscope of my soul.

When governments fall and tsunamis obliterate, when updates flash across our screens projecting images of places so casually and profoundly anchored to our identity, TCKs ache.

And we despair of ever being able to articulate our pain. Our horror. Our longing. The visceral chaos of loving fiercely from afar.

We follow the unfolding nightmare expecting to see someone we know, scanning new camera angles for familiar streets where friends might still live.
We ignore the pontificating of scrambling TV hosts and cringe at their easy generalizations. To people like me, these faces they label aren’t of enemies and innocents. Both terrorists and victims look like people we have loved. And still love.

The political hyperbole wounds our loyalties…
our disparate and urgent loyalties.

There’s a sweet and bitter torture to our core-duality.
So as I think back to my hours by the Seine that day, to the simple bliss of passing Bateau Mouches and of nearby children playing “un, deux, trois soleil,” I grieve. I mourn with my city and pray for its healing.

I feel the reborn brotherhood of my French heritage wrapping my heart in pain and courage. Douleur et vaillance.

Shaken and secure, I cling to this promise from the One who truly Rules despite man’s worst intentions: though evil seems to reign, it will not prevail.

Je prie pour toi, ma belle et douce France, écrin de mon enfance.

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    • Sally Phoenix

    • 9 years ago

    I’m sitting with tears dripping off my chin as I read what I have been feeling and haven’t been able to put into words…what I felt yesterday in church when we were asked to pray for the families of the dead and wounded, to pray for the salvation of those who are caught up in this incredible evil. All well and good, but no one thought to pray for the missionaries who live around the corner from one of the sites, (personal friends) and for the other missionaries around France and for the French pastors and Christians who will be speaking into the lives of traumatized French people…who will be asked questions that are hard to answer. I understand now that I should not expect those who have never called France “home” to understand.

    • Bev H.

    • 9 years ago

    Lovely, Michele. It’s true that those who have never lived here can’t truly understand what this all means. Even those of us who do live here can’t quite get our heads and hearts around how this will change life as we know it. What we do know is that the despair that characterizes so many in this great country is deeper than ever, the need for the Hope that Jesus brings greater than ever. Praying that we can make a difference!

    • Ben

    • 9 years ago

    Well said Michelle! As a 12 year (and still counting) veteran of the US Air Force… Having been on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, mortared and shot at… Very few things these days shake my foundations. My military bearing has made me strong, and my faith in God even more steadfast. But your words spoke to my inner TCK… As if it pierced thru all walls that I have put up to compartmentalize my life. As an Airman, a sentry to my nation that I protect and love dearly… Steadfast and strong… Your words rocked me to my core… And memories of my “belle France” flooded my mind… Thank you for reminding me that no matter how involved I get with my surroundings… Deep down… I am, and will forever be a TCK… Your words are spot on!

    • Tim McHargue

    • 9 years ago

    Michèle, Your words express thoughts and feelings that I’ve felt. Thank you. I now have two dates that I will remember with horror and grief, September 11 and November 13. On 9-11, I was teaching in an Elementary School when I heard of those attacks by these evil men. I was chocked. Our faculty’s first concern was the safety of our students. The mood was very tense. Later we realized the attacks were about 1500 to 2000 miles away and some of our anxiety was relieved. To our shame we too soon forgot the horrors of 9-11, probable because we knew no one personally who lives in New York or Washington. By contrast 11-13 for me was even more chocking, because I do have friends and acquaintances who live near the bombings. How could these men commit such a horrible act? Three word from an anthem that I sang, both times I lived briefly in France are a comfort, “Seigneur viens bientôt”, for Jesus Christ will make things right.

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