If you had the opportunity to visit my workplace and see my colleague’s office, you would find evidence of her love for Paris all around. Framed paintings. Metalwork in the forms of famous buildings. On her desk are photos of her family. Take a walk with Patti and you hear the escapades of her grandchildren or children or the recent exploits of Patti with her husband.
Patti. Paris. Family vacation. France. It was a dream come true for my friend. All her loves in one place.
So when I heard the news about Nice on Thursday night, all I could think of was Patti and her family, potentially there. Who wouldn’t time a once-in-a-lifetime trip to France during Le Tour de France and Bastille Day?
Patti had been planning the trip for a year, relating some of the details during our lunchtime walks at work.
When the November, Friday the 13th, series of terror attacks occurred in Paris last fall, I worried. I worried aloud, actually. I asked Patti if she were afraid. I can’t remember how she answered, but she hadn’t changed her plans. Early this week she left at mid-afternoon, offering a sprightly goodbye to us, her colleagues.
She had planned every detail — to the locations they would visit, to the places they would stay, to the backpacks her granddaughters would wear. She purchased money belts for safekeeping and vacuum bags for compact packing and determined inexpensive ways for her family members to communicate overseas. She even hosted practice sessions in her home to go over the dos and don’ts of the trip. She was prepared.
On Thursday morning, just passing Patti’s office to start our brisk, half-mile morning walk prompted a conversation about the trip and how much our coworker had done to prepare.
“I just hope they don’t have another incident in Paris while they are there,” I had said to Sharon.
We talked as we walked about the uncertainty in the world and how now may not be the best time for travel.
“I had worried about you and your family when you went to D.C. last week,” I admitted. “The Fourth of July — as we were celebrating our nation’s birthday — seemed like a good time for someone to terrorize the nation’s capital.”
The worst thing that happened on Sharon’s trip occurred at home — when a hawk killed one of her chickens as they wandered the fenced yard during the day, eating bugs. Our conversation quickly changed from terrorism to chicken fears. The hawk who had killed and left Sharon’s half eaten chicken in her back yard still kept his terrible vigil at a nearby tree, calling out his threats to the paltry few poultry who remained. Even days later, Sharon’s chickens remained chicken, so afraid of the hawk that none would emerge from the safety of the nesting house, not even into the wired and protected coop.
Patti is not so chicken that she would cancel her plans for Paris and neighboring landmarks.
None of this conversation would have seemed significant — except for the news that night.
I had left work late, visited my hairdresser, and then met my husband for dinner. We talked about the day’s calamities in the Tour de France on this, Bastille Day. (High winds forced a series of unfortunate events.) The tour on our minds, we got home in time to hear the first radio reports on this most recent terror attack in France. I quickly moved from the cycling competition to Patti and her family in France. When the pictures and video footage came across the news screen, I looked for her and hers. Was she there?
The next morning at work, I asked fellow workers if they’d heard from Patti. They hadn’t, but she had — in her great planning — left her family itinerary with two of them. The family had been in Germany the day before.
Knowing someone visiting Europe in this time of uncertainty makes this latest terror event seem close to home. Rather like having a hawk peering into my yard from a too-close tree.
Patti is sweet on Paris; all who know her are sweet on Patti. We pray for her safety and hope that this trip of a lifetime is all she had planned, despite the chaos and fear that must surely be present.
My heart goes out to France and all who have lost loved ones in this most recent terror attack.