As images of mourners filling the streets of Paris spread worldwide Wednesday, members of Chicago’s French community held a vigil of their own, grieving for 12 people killed when gunmen stormed the offices of a satirical French publication.
“It’s like if somebody came into Mad Magazine and tried to kill everybody,” said Aimee Laberge, director of programs for the near North Side culture center Alliance Francaise, where the vigil was held
Laberge is from Quebec, but her daughter Marguerite is an English teacher in a predominantly Muslim suburb of Paris. She lives blocks from the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the newspaper that was targeted.
“There is tension,” Laberge said of the suburb where her daughter works.“I am afraid of the backlash that there may be someone from the extreme right that might create trouble.”
Over 150 people attended the vigil in the Alliance Francaise auditorium. Vincent Floreani, the French consul general, addressed those who gathered.
When “facing barbarism, we must remain firm, protecting the values [and] heart of our republic,” Floreani said. But he cautioned: “We should not make any confusion between a small group of extremists and a whole religion, which is a religion of peace.”
Many wrote messages on a paper banner displayed on a table at the cultural center. Florian Huchede, 31, wrote “I am proud to be French today.”
Huchede, who lives in Chicago but is from Versailles, said he was sad but heartened to see images of his grieving countrymen in Paris show such a public display of emotion.
“That is why I am so proud. Because there is a huge movement,” Huchede said. “First we are mourning and we are sad. But also we are defending our freedom. And these two things are happening together.”