France paid homage today to those who died in terrorist attacks in Paris two weeks ago. The names of the 130 people killed were read at a national memorial service at a historic military building in Paris called Les Invalides.
At a solemn ceremony at the city’s Les Invalides monument, victims’ families joined survivors, emergency service workers, religious leaders and politicians for a national memorial service at which the names of those massacred by Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers were read out.
President Francois Hollande delivered a speech, saying France would continue to defend the values for which the victims were killed.
“They were France. They were shot dead because they were freedom,” Hollande said of the victims. In the name of the nation, he extended “our compassion, our affection toward the families, the nearest and dearest … parents who no longer see their children. The children who will grow up without their parents.”
“The patriotism that we see expressed today with these flags proudly displayed, these spontaneous gatherings, these crowds singing the Marseillaise…Yes, that has nothing to do with any kind of instinct for revenge or any sort of rejection of others,” he said.
“Because, despite the tragedy, despite the blood spilled, France has kept its principles of hope and tolerance intact.”
In his speech, Hollande said France is at war against ISIS; he has been traveling the world to convince nations to join the intensifying fight. Just yesterday, in what was seen as a major accomplishment, Hollande secured Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agreement that Russia would focus its airstrikes on ISIS, not opposition groups in Syria.
“We will not give in to either fear or hatred” President Francois Hollande told the more than 2,000 people present at the ceremony.
And in response to the extremists who targeted people sitting at cafes, attending a rock concert and a football match, he pledged there would be more songs, concerts and shows, and vowed that the French people would keep going to sports stadiums.
Hollande pointed out that most of those killed were aged under 35 and said that their generation had now become “the face of France” in which he had full confidence.
A minute’s silence was held in honour of those killed. The French national anthem – La Marseillaise – was sung and other music performed included Jacques Brel’s “Quand on n’a que l’amour”.