I remember walking around Paris just after the Charlie Hebdo events earlier this year, feeling the general sadness as I paced the streets. Living near Paris, loving the humour of Charlie Hebdo and being from a Jewish family meant that those events affected me deeply. I remember taking the train and seeing for the first time people talking to each other, complete strangers having conversations like friends would, even if for less than 10 minutes. Those moments were important. It was important to talk to anyone and everyone so we could move on, so we could at least keep company to each other.
When I woke up this morning, with the same weird "hangover" I had after Charlie, I knew that this time I would be alone. Now that I live in Manchester, I knew people would not feel affected as much as I do. Proof of that came right away when my English flatmate just said "Hi" to me in the morning as casually as ever.
But why should I blame anyone? I do not want to play the victim especially when I am lucky enough that no one I know got killed. For that reason, when I went out to Poundland to buy something to drink and eat for the day, I did not expect anything. In the queue, I overheard an old lady saying to the cashier "it's horrible" but I was feeling too weird to put in the effort to understand anything else.
Then my turn comes and the cashier says: "And you sir are you alright?"
"Yes thank you," I answer in my French accent, which the cashier is quick to pick up on.
"Oh you're French aren't you?"
"Sorry for what happened. Really, I hope you and your relatives are fine."
The conversation was as brief as that. But thank you, anonymous cashier at Poundland, for being such an amazing human being. Because when facing terrorism, the best answer we have is not arms. It is not waging wars against an enemy we don't fully know or understand and it is not being afraid for the security of our countries. The best answer we can have is exactly the one this cashier reminded me of: solidarity and unity.
I'm proud to be French when I hear that taxis were getting people home for free last night and that Parisians opened their home to anyone in need. And I'm proud to live in Manchester when I talked to this cashier. I hope you all will feel something similar at some point. Because deep down, you will know that yesterday’s tragedy is not something that should tear us apart. It is something that should bring us even closer together.
Lioui Benhamou is from France. He is a first-year Politics and International Relations student at the University of Manchester.