Extra! Extra! A Post-Charlie World

That elusive paper...

It’s funny how a silly green newspaper can mean so much. I don’t regularly do much at 6AM, on account of the sleeping and all, but this past week I couldn’t not get up early. I had a mission.

Paris won’t go back to normal. What does normal even mean anyway? While the city will recover from the terrorist attacks on the weekly satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, it’s just not going to be the same here. The scar will stay.

But that’s OK. This is France, the land of revolution, coups d’├ętat, and protests (and amazing over-the-counter cosmetics to cover it up). Things rarely stay the same, anyway. In the 1800s alone they went through two emperors and three kings as well as two republics. That’s a lot of change.

And hopefully things will continue to change for the better, because there's definitely issues beyond "free speech" that France has to address in the wake of these attacks.

"All is forgiven"

But the French are showing the world that they're OK, and that they'll be able to deal with the change. This past week, Parisians were out every morning, showing their support for freedom of speech by purchasing the so-called “Survivor’s Issue” of Charlie Hebdo. Irreverent as ever, it featured the prophet Muhammad on the cover, celebrating freedom of speech while scandalizing once again.

I have my issues, but overall I'm proud to call France home, and I wanted to do my little part, or at least be a part of it all. I tried one morning for a paper. Failed – sold out in minutes. I tried another morning. Failed – too far back in line. It was like finding rationed meat during the Depression just to catch a glimpse of this paper. I finally tried Friday morning and hit the jackpot, in that I got a paper.

It’s a funny thing, seeing people waiting in line at 6AM at a newsstand, something that seems so archaic in an era of Twitter and online news. I didn’t learn about the attacks from a piece of paper. I read the AFP’s Twitter feed and the live France24 reports online.

But there we all were, standing in the cold, hoping the sellers would have the paper. Journalists were reporting on the lines, interviewing many of us who passionately, or at least adequately, described why we wanted to buy it.

'The' place to be at 6AM these days...

It was kind of emotional when the stand starting selling them outside of the Jacques Bonsergent metro station, just a few blocks from where Sunday’s rally happened. It was a little victory for me, but a bigger one for France.

As people rushed from kiosk to kiosk, looking for a newsstand with the paper, pointing to where others may be able to get one, I thought about the implications of the terrorist attacks. As I write this, a French center burns in Niger. This morning, Charlie Hebdo protestors fought with police in Pakistan. A bomb threat led to the evacuation of the Gare de l’Est in Paris.

Sure things won’t be the same, but I’ll always be able to look back and remember the bizarre comfort of waiting with a bunch of strangers in line at 6:30 in the morning and paying 3 euros for a piece of paper that never meant anything to me before.

Now it’s one of the only things we can count on in a post-Charlie world.