One month on from the attacks that claimed the lives of 130 people, hundreds of candles flicker in the breeze in Place de la République. The plinth around the central monument has become a secular shrine, a focus for remembrance but also a place of hope for the future.
Compared to those close to the sites of the attacks, these tributes are less personal. There are some photos of individuals whose lives were cut short but most of the messages are more general expressions of sorrow, solidarity and the power of love to overcome hate. Many messages are strongly secular but there are also prayers, Christian and Jewish symbols and messages from Muslims, appalled that their religion is invoked in campaigns of murder and destruction.
A couple of weeks ago this space was looking overwhelmed by the weight of sorrows and hopes piled onto it. Fresh flowers were heaped on dead ones and a few candle flames illuminated the remains of hundreds of tea lights that had burnt away. No one felt able to take away the tributes that others had brought, even when they were reduced to a few withered stalks or a candle stub. Now the ring of candles and messages shows clear signs of care. Perishable, cut flowers have been replaced by flowering pot plants and someone has installed a small Christmas tree.
When I stopped by this evening, three women were quietly moving around the plinth, removing spent candles and relighting others, smoothing out messages and weighting them down, reattaching posters and flags. It’s a delicate task, undertaken with sensitivity. It may be a step towards healing.