It’s now over a month since the slaughter on that terrible night in Paris when a gang of rampaging killers saw fit to murder 130 people - and injure many more.  Although other news stories have inevitably taken over the international headlines, an urban orgy of bloodshed on this scale - specially in western Europe - is as difficult to forget as it was to comprehend in the first place.

When Parisians, and many other French people, feel that France is in trouble or in crisis, they customarily head en masse to Place de la Republique, near the centre of Paris, to show their solidarity and support for each other - liberty, equality and fraternity in action, if you like.

Last week I visited Paris and joined many of them there.

Republique lies only a few minutes’ walk from Dominique and John’s flat; it’s even closer to most of the places where so many lives were cut so brutally short by the agents of Allah.  This means that its place at the centre of France’s ongoing public reaction to November 13th is especially poignant.

And that poignancy was not lost on me as I walked onto the square and saw national grief (as it were) in physical form.  I had seen pictures on tv and in newspapers but nothing prepared me for the sadness, shock, despair, incomprehension, anger and loss I saw and felt there.  It was palpable.  It hung in the air.
Même pas Peur - Nevertheless, no Fear

I spent as long as I could looking at the thousands of candles there; visitors and local people make sure that at least some of them are burning day and night, and new ones, like the one I laid there, are being added and lit all the time.

And there are flowers - many, many thousands of flowers - and flags, banners, letters, posters, cards, photographs, placards and achingly scrawled messages.  Impromptu and defiant Christmas decorations have started to appear now, too.

The noble and historic monument at the centre of all this outpouring cannot cope with the burden of grief laid upon her; the bouquets and wreaths and candles are spreading ever outward over the pavement now - and into the hearts of everyone who visits this overpowering and heartbreaking symbol of the savage butchery of innocent people.

I cried.  And I wasn’t alone with my tears.  People were weeping and hugging all round me.  The memory of my visit there is having the same effect on me now, as I write.

Like everyone else, I hope that the souls of those who were murdered that night are at peace in whatever version of paradise gives them most comfort; a paradise forever beyond the reach of thugs, terror and tears.

This is going to be an awful Christmas for those they left behind.
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