Facebook’s French flag receives mixed emotions.
By Daniel Carde
Though an ocean is between Paris and San Antonio, the attacks on the French city hit close to home for a staff member, a student and a graduate of this college.
Paris, separated from San Antonio by a distance of more than 5,000 miles, was attacked by the Islamic State group Friday night in three simultaneous incidents, which killed 129 and injured 352.
Isabelle Burke, senior multimedia specialist and native Parisian, was working at about 4:30 p.m. in her fifth-floor Moody Learning Center office when she received a text from a friend about the ongoing terrorist attacks.
Burke’s nephew Arnaud Cascail is a French police officer who was scheduled to work the France-Germany soccer match at the Stade de France, the stadium where the terrorists detonated three explosive devices, killing one civilian.
But Burke said she wasn’t afraid for his life.
She knew Cascail left the city Thursday, taking Friday night off of work,
with his brother Antoine Cascail to celebrate the 30th birthday of Antoine’s fiancé in a town north of Paris.
“He was very upset that he wasn’t there,” Burke said. “He wanted to be there with all of his co-workers, his buddies.”
All of Burke’s family, but two nephews, have left Paris since she moved to San Antonio in 1995, she said. She thought all of her friends had moved, too, until she received a Facebook notification that her friend Olivier Frot “was marked safe during Paris Terror Attacks” via Facebook’s “safety check” feature.
This is the first time the feature, which launched Oct. 16, 2014, has been activated outside of a natural disaster.
Burke praised the feature as fast and convenient rather than waiting for news from an embassy.
Rayne Richardson, an American liberal-arts graduate from this college who lives in Paris, found out the attacks were happening from friends who work a few blocks from the Bataclan, the music venue ISIS gunmen stormed during a concert, killing more than 80 people.
The friends called to say they were safe. She learned about other friends’ safety from Facebook.
France had already endured another attack earlier this year.
Burke said she cried and was sad when terrorists killed 12 Charlie Hebdo magazine employees in January, but those gunmen also destroyed something intangible, she said.
“They killed freedom of speech,” she said. “Ever since, the people are afraid to write.”
She said Friday night’s attack elicited a different response, anger against France’s government for making the country a soft target by being too lenient on immigration, allowing more Middle Easterners than France can integrate and assimilate.
“The message couldn’t be more clear: this is war, and because this is war, we have to fight back,” Burke said.
France began bombing ISIS headquarters Sunday night in Raqqa, Syria.
“We have no choice; we are at war,” she said. “We have to use all our tools.”
Parisian Sarah Zoungrana, international student and communication design freshman, doesn’t think bombing ISIS is the correct way to respond to the attacks.
“I am not happy,” Zoungrana said. “They (France) are killing innocent people.”
Richardson said Paris is one of the safest cities in Europe with all the extra military personnel in the city.
“I think they are handling the situation perfectly,” she said.
Richardson, who is studying international business at the Paris School of Business, said her school is checking everyone’s ID, and bags are being checked at stores.
Burke said more should be done to protect France, including detaining in a secured facility all people listed as dangerous or a possible threat to France.
All the people with French passports who went to Syria to fight should be charged with treason or as war criminals and sentenced to death, she said.
Like many people, Richardson added a French flag to her Facebook profile picture to show solidarity with France and the French people, she said.
Displaying the flag shows concern and lets terrorists know you are proud to be a part of France, she said.
“It brings people together; it shows that people care for something,” she said.
Zoungrana also said adding a French flag to a Facebook profile shows solidarity and unison, especially for people who “want to help, but there is nothing they can do but pray and show support.”
Not everyone thinks adding a flag to a profile is productive.
Burke said people need to get involved and do more than cover their Facebook profile photograph with a French flag.
“It’s an empty gesture, same as saying ‘I am Charlie.’ It won’t solve anything,” she said. “We don’t need feel-good action; we need real action.
“We are all in this together. We have to be harsh. We have no choice. This is war.”