It began with only a few flowers and candles. But the tribute on Michigan Avenue continued to grow Sunday as Chicagoans waited their turn to add a flame, a rose and a message for the people of France.
“Chicago is with Paris,” read one sign outside the office of the Consulate General of France.
Several gathered in the plaza in the 200 block of North Michigan to show solidarity with Parisians after the deadliest violence on French soil since World War II. Vincent Floreani, the consul general of France in Chicago, delivered a message to the crowd in French and later translated in English.
“We received numerous messages of support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, from Sen. Mark Kirk, from many other politicians,” Floreani said. “Also from religious leaders, from [the] Jewish community, from the Islamic community, and from the Christian community, and many others. Thank you very much to all of our American friends, and friends from other nationalities.”
Archbishop Blase Cupich wrote in an emailed statement: “On behalf of the Catholic community in Chicago I want to express deep sadness at the depraved taking of innocent life this week in Paris. We will continue to pray for the victims, their loved ones and all who are sickened in heart and spirit by this latest outrage.
“It is worthy of note that those who sought to kill and terrorize have prompted by their cowardice a brave new commitment to the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity that mark the French nation,” Cupich wrote.
People in the crowd carried French flags and signs with the Eiffel Tower inside the peace symbol. A woman in the crowd fought tears during a moment of silence.
Adeline Courrivault, a student at East-West University who wrapped herself in a French flag, said she and Leslie Cooke joined the gathering to send a simple message: “Even if we’re not in France, we’re French.”
Courrivault said she knew five people inside a stadium targeted by terrorists Friday night. All of her friends are safe, she said.
“We cried a lot,” Courrivault said. “We didn’t sleep at all.”
Cooke said she fears the attacks signal the start of something bigger. The Islamic State has vowed to continue targeting France, Courrivault pointed out.
“It is just beginning,” Courrivault said. “And even America has to fear.”