The shock of Friday's slaughter by terrorists in Paris reverberated throughout the Twin Cities' Franco-American community as it grappled with the return of terror to a homeland still mourning attacks not yet a year old.
Hours after the attacks, the local chapter of Alliance Française announced plans to march Sunday at 2 p.m. from its North Loop building down Hennepin Avenue to a multifaith service at the Basilica of St. Mary.
Alliance executive director Christina Selander Bouzouina, an honorary consul to France, was in Chicago at a meeting of consuls when news of the attacks broke. By midmorning Saturday, she said a Parisian friend of some Alliance Française members was counted among the dead. "Just a kind and wonderful man — a father of two young girls," she said.
Bouzouina said about 3,000 French citizens live in Minnesota and 12,000 are scattered across the Midwest. Alliance Française, which has had a Twin Cities presence since the 1920s, has 1,300 members, she said.
Bouzouina said Alliance Française is trying to contact U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison to invite him and members of the local Muslim community to Sunday's 3 p.m. service.
In a show of solidarity, a state Department of Transportation official confirmed that the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis would be lit Saturday and Sunday night in the French flag colors of blue, white and red, as other landmarks around the globe did the same.
In Paris, where Edina resident Bill L'Herault has been visiting for five weeks, Friday seemed like a typical lively weekend night when he returned from dining. He said he first learned of the attacks from a text message from a relative and spent hours glued to television news coverage. On Saturday, as he picked up an Edina friend whose plane from Minneapolis touched down in Paris that morning, L'Herault said the weekend bustle had left the city.
Kurts Strelnieks, of Eden Prairie, was wrapping up his Paris vacation with his wife as the bedlam unfolded. He said the mood of the city changed "from its especially joyful spirit to an understandably subdued mood today. That said, we noted a defiance today that I admire, a determination to live life as it should be lived."
Alain Lenne owns La Belle Crepe restaurant in downtown Minneapolis and grew up in the countryside of northern France. Calls to home revealed that his family was safe but that the entire country is on edge, he said.
"Paris has become a ghost town," he said. "They closed the whole country. Everybody is on high alert. … You don't know who's who anymore."
Before Friday, France was still reeling from January attacks at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish grocery. Numerous other terror attempts have been thwarted. With that in mind, Bouzouina said about the only surprise was the scope of Friday's bloodshed.
"This was a soccer game, a concert, young people having dinner at a cafe," she said. "The fact that it can happen anywhere without any justification."
Jerome Chateau, vice president of the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Minneapolis, spent more than 20 years in France before coming to the Twin Cities for graduate school. Though he has long called Minnesota home, he still visits Paris twice a year, staying blocks from the site of one of Friday's blasts.
He said his mother and sister described Paris as a "dead city" on Saturday. After learning his loved ones were safe, Château turned his attention to preparing for Friday's annual French-American Chamber of Commerce fundraiser, which he hopes will bring together members of the community.
"On the other hand life continues," he said. "Part of the answer is you don't want to be intimidated. You want to continue living. After a while you want to brave the risks. It's not going to stop people from going to rock concerts and sitting at a cafe. … You have to make a decision. You continue to live or you don't."