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2 Weeks After Paris Attacks, France Holds National Day Of Mourning


We're listening to music from this morning's memorial ceremony in Paris. France is paying homage to those who died in a terrorist attack two weeks ago. The families of the victims are there, as well as survivors, members of the government and the opposition - basically, politics has been put aside this morning as France unites to honor the lives lost in those attacks. We go now to our correspondent in Paris, Eleanor Beardsley. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Tell us about this event. For instance, where was it held?

BEARDSLEY: Well, it's held at Les Invalides, which is a military hospital built by Louis XIV. This is also where Napoleon is laid to rest. And since the 19th century, this has been a very symbolic place for the nation to pay honor to soldiers who've fallen for their country. And, Renee, the fact that civilians are being honored here is very symbolic. It shows that they're being considered victims of war. And the ceremony began with the "Marseillaise" and then Beethoven. But there's also more modern artists - Jacques Brel, Barbara - which is in memory to all of the young people killed, and also a nod to French culture and a way of life and living that was seen as being attacked here. And after the music played, they showed the pictures of the 130 victims and read out their names and ages on a big screen. And most of them were under the age of 30.

MONTAGNE: And President Francois Hollande is there, of course. What about him? What did he do, and what was he saying?

BEARDSLEY: Well, Renee, there's more than 1,000 people at this very solemn, sober ceremony. And Hollande sat in a chair, a lone chair, out front. He said that these people were cut down because they represented life, liberty and France. This speech is being described as one of his most important of his whole term because it has to be mourning - you know, one of mourning, very sober. But he also has to rally the French to continue to go on as they were living. Hollande, you know, is being described as a president at war now. He has said France is at war against ISIS, and he's been traveling the world over the last couple days trying to rally nations to intensify the strikes against ISIS. And yesterday, he was in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he got Putin agree to focus the strikes on ISIS and not other opposition groups. And this is seen as a major accomplishment in the fight against ISIS.

MONTAGNE: Let's talk about the French. Two weeks exactly, trying days - what does it look like at this moment in time?

BEARDSLEY: Well, people are scared still. They're jittery. But they're angry and defiant. There's been a lot of emotions over the last two weeks. But they are in complete solidarity. There are no divisions. The people attacked came from every background, Renee - every religion, every walk of life. The only commonality, really, was that they were mostly young people. So the French feel that their values and way of life been attacked, and as one woman said to me yesterday, who doesn't go to a cafe?

MONTAGNE: So what, would you say probably a mix, but more fear, patriotism?

BEARDSLEY: You know, Renee, I feel, and from what I've been hearing and seeing, that there's been more patriotism. There's a huge explosion of patriotism. And here's just an anecdote to sum it up. Hollande asked people to display the French flag in their homes. Now, the French have a completely different relationship with the flag than Americans. Americans put the flag up, but in France, it's something on public build buildings and maybe sporting events, but it's - to personally wave is considered something the far right does. But they can't sell enough of them now. Everyone is putting flags up. They say that the flag's imbued with a new meaning. It means togetherness - not military conquest or politics. It means togetherness of all peoples, a way of life, going out to cafes - a French way of life that someone has tried to stuff out, and people are rising up and saying no. And there's been a lot of people joining the army as well, just like after 9/11 in the US - a huge burst of patriotism, people who want to defend their nation and their way of living.

MONTAGNE: Eleanor, thanks very much.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley speaking to us from Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.