Paris remains one of the luminous memories of our family’s life.
In part, at least, that is due to the surpassing beauty of the city.
But it’s surely a result, also, of the particular time in our lives — with our daughters then just entering their teens — when we had the joy of spending a year there together.
For the girls, it was their chance to begin understanding the diversity of humankind with whom they share this crowded world.
The school they attended was just a 15-minute bus ride across the river from our apartment. Among their classmates were children of more than 50 nationalities — many of them as confounded by English as our daughters were by French.
For me, thanks to the wonderful variety of subject matter, writing then was easier than at any time since. Each day brought some new revelation or adventure.
As the months went by, we made friendships that bridged the impediment of languages.
One was Herve Marc, a young man in the publishing business. Almost every weekend from October to June, he came with his car to pick up the four of us and take us to some part of the country he thought we should see.
Another was George Farchakh, whose apartment was next to ours on the fourth-floor landing of our building.
He was a Lebanese journalist — the Paris-based writer for a newspaper in Beirut. His wife, Salma, was of Syrian origin — a professional interpreter who accompanied French President Francois Mitterrand whenever he traveled in the Arab world.
Though Middle Eastern by origin, both were decidedly French in manner and values.
To ride daily on the Paris Metro, as living there required, was to be struck by the astonishing sampling of humanity that called the city home.
Africans, Asians, Arabs — a striking variety of languages, complexions and manners — many of them were brought to that shared home by the end of the age of empires. And it had seemed possible at that time, almost 30 years ago, to find a workable means of coexistence.
Even then there were protests — by youngsters against the shortage of employment and in some cases by immigrants against the persisting tyrannies in countries from which they had fled.
That said, random violence was a comparative rarity. Murders in Paris during our year there were only a fraction of the numbers in many large American cities.
In the space of only a few terrible days, however, that sense of safety has been eroded by the recent horror wrought by terrorists in France’s capital.
Our thoughts during the ordeal were with our friends there — friends we are determined to see again in different and better times.
For more of C.W. Gusewelle, go to gusewelle.kansascity.com.