1200px-Paris_NightView over Paris, at dusk, from the Maine-Montparnasse tower. (Image via Wikimedia, Creative Commons License)

I am a New Yorker. I was here the morning of 9/11, the day everything changed. Before that day, wars were things that were waged far away, overseas. In the United States, large numbers of innocent civilians were never thought to be in danger. Europeans, however, have never had that luxurious sense of safety; sadly, the effects of war and terrorism have been known to their citizens all too often. On Friday night, the attacks in Paris by the Islamic State provided a stark reminder of that morning in September 2001, when average people were going about their business and got caught in the crossfire of hateful zealotry.

One of my earliest memories is of being awakened in the middle of the night in a Paris hotel room by my parents who had taken the whole family on a very special trip to France. It was the early 1960s, and our hotel was being evacuated because the Algerians had made a bomb threat. As a child I was aware of the drama but could not really understand the daily terror that French citizens faced at that time. I remember that everything about France was exotic then—the cafes, the clothes, the croissants. Now, you can get a croissant at any Starbucks, and French cuisine and style have made their mark everywhere. Our world has truly become a global one. What happens in each place affects us all, sooner or later.

To some extent, communication, the Internet and social media have helped this along. This is often an important change that allows for information delivery in real time. On Friday, people in the United States watched as if they were there as the terror unfolded in Paris and empathized all the more for it. Imagine how different the fate of some of those lost during World War II might have been had Americans felt more connected to in Europeans and we had intervened sooner (for an excellent book on this subject, read 1944 by Jay Winik).

After 9/11, the whole world seemed to be grieving with us, just as now we stand with France. But many feel that we may have lost some of that good will with unilateral decisions to enter into wars. Our political leaders are now working with allies across the globe to respond to this situation, some with an eye to the fact that the public is wary of sending soldiers anywhere after so many years of fighting in the Middle East.

Perhaps now is the time for the United States to be a part of a truly global coalition—well thought out, properly directed, adequately staffed, and inclusive—that does not depend entirely on us but uses some of our enormous resources nevertheless.

No one has a solution to the alarming problem of terrorism but the events of this past weekend in Paris have the possibility of uniting all good people across the globe in an effort to eliminate this enemy that believes that martyrdom leads to glory and that no lives matter.

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  • Toni Myers November 16, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Ford. I’ve read most everything relating to the tragedy in Paris, and your post is the most hopeful to me: “the possibility of uniting all good people across the globe…” Yes!

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. November 16, 2015 at 8:19 am

    We appreciate this thoughtful post from Dr Cecilia Ford with her shared personal
    memories and well expressed concerns that many of our readers share.