Global, Public Health, Students

Violence and uncertainty

November 16, 2015

Assault on Paris reverberates

Friday night, as Paris was rocked with unimaginable violence, many of us were transported back to those horrible moments of terror in this country on September 11th not so many years ago. Having lived in Washington, D.C., then, I know what it is to feel unsafe in one’s familiar environment, hearing military jets overhead, flying surprisingly low over our city neighborhood, and wondering whether there is more violence to come. I remember people from our small street coming together that night for an impromptu pot luck dinner, just wanting to reach out to one another and not knowing what else to do.

Eventually, those not wounded or suffering the loss of family and friends begin to feel safe again—although always transformed by what happened. Events such as those in Paris remind us that violence lurks beneath the surface and can erupt anywhere, anytime. What is frightening is the potential of senseless violence to disrupt everyday lives in unpredictable ways. Of course, one assumes that is a goal of the perpetrators—to put us on notice that we are not safe. We may not be safe, but we go on.

We particularly feel the assault on Paris, because we have forged a partnership with the venerable Institut Pasteur over the past few years. Two of our former environmental sciences and engineering students—Maya Nadimpalli, PhD, and Patsy Polston, PhD—are now postdoctoral fellows at Pasteur, and we were so grateful to learn they are safe but understandably shaken up by what happened. We hope that the Pasteur community is safe.

Of all places I have visited, Paris is one of the most magical. My husband and I had planned to return soon. We will. Our hearts go out to the people of that city.


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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.