Journey to France: Day 153 (A Change in Plans)

4 airports in 4 countries in under 48 hours; a journey delayed by deaths.

In late April we had planned to cut out journey short and return to France early for several reasons. The return was to be a surprise for Clément’s family hence why everything was kept mum. Our stay in Malaysia was extended due to the preparation for our puppy’s vaccinations and paperwork to enter France.

We left Kuala Lumpur with our puppy in the cargo plane with anticipation. We landed in Istanbul at 5.00am local time, to find out the airport’s Departure Hall had been bombed by jihad activists, we witnessed a small sampling of anarchy as the terminals were without security guards and people were just helping themselves to food and drinks in unattended cafes. I admit to being swept in with the crowd and helping myself to a Turkish orange biscuit, a spinach pastry and a bottle of water.  Families were sleeping on the floor in front of the duty free areas as those were the least crowded areas. People pushing their way out of the terminal like forcing coffee beans through a funnel, disregarding any empathy for the innocent people who lost their lives just a mere 6 hours ago. Staff were reported to still be cleaning the mess of blood and body parts.

Customs staff members were treating people like low grade cattle. We personally witnessed a female customs staff member dismissing an elderly, cancer patient’s request for a wheelchair as her painkillers were no longer helping her to stand up. We were next to her when it happened as we were helping her with her larger bags.

Basically all compassion for life was eradicated from the scene as people pushed each other to catch flights that were not even taking off! Everything was finally reopened and staff were herding people as quickly as they could to restore order once again in the terminals. From what a staff member told us there were 30-40 people dead and approximately 150 injured. The numbers should have been confirmed by now.

We had a 2 hour delay, which was something to be thankful for as there were people who were stranded and couldn’t get home because their flights were cancelled. All the while throughout our delay, we were concerned for the condition of our puppy and if the staff would also handle him as wrecklessly as they were doing with their own human kind.

While waiting for our flight and amongst watching  the dozens of groups rushing to and fro, there were the tired and innocent who were pressed into a corner or on whatever seats were available. A Muslim woman had been waiting for her flight for the past 5 hours. She looked pale, dehydrated and most definitely fatigued. Next to her on the seats was her little girl, still a toddler, fast asleep (to her mother’s relief) with a pacifier in her mouth. She had a small towel over her as a blanket. In the mother’s aching arms was a boy, older than a baby but younger than the girl. He was crying and crying and his mother was grabbing every clothing item of theirs in reach to keep him warm. She resulted to taking the boy’s shirt off to wrap his entire body in tightly as best as she can. Covering the rest of his exposed cold skin with her own arms and pressing him so tightly to her,  she was whispering “shhhhh” repeatedly and rocking him to help him fall asleep just like his sister, so perhaps the mother could get some sleep too.

I rummaged through my little bag and pulled out a scarf that my dearest of friends had given me Just the day before, for the same reason, to keep me warm. I unravelled the scarf and tried to smoothen the creases and gave it a quick sniff to ensure it still smelled fine. It smelled beautifully of Belle’s perfume, fragrances by flowers. Satisfied with the state of the thin but incredibly thermal scarf, I sat next to the lady and we chatted briefly about her children. I gave her the scarf to which she was definitely happy to receive. There was hesitation in her facial expressions and body language but her eyes were fixed on the scarf the whole time. I pressed the scarf into her hands and told her to take it, I had enough warm clothing with me. She smiled and for the first time since I saw her, her face was radiant. Her eyebrows unknitted and her forehead smoothened. Her mouth which before, was tight from either frowning or forming the shape to produce “shh” sounds loosened into a gentle smile. Her eyes no longer heavy with the weight of her previously creased forehead, resumed their natural roundish-almond shape. They were no longer cast down but looking up to meet mine, allowing the daylight to reflect off of them, giving the illusion (or perhaps not) of a gleam.

We boarded our flight and discussed the absurdity of how everyone else around us (other passengers) were either reacting selfishly to the attacks or just carrying about their business as if nothing  happened. I couldn’t even bring myself to enjoy the biscuit or pastry when the weight from the realisation of the wrong I had done sank in my stomach. It was just so damn easy to follow the crowd, even when the crowd was doing the most obvious wrong.

The social network world is probably in the midst of a profile picture exodus to a photo which symbolises payments of respects to the victims and a display of empathy. On the other hand, the people in the same building as the victims didn’t even blink for a second!

Society’s behaviour seems to be more for display than for genuine compassion.

To be continued…

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