Montine Whelchel Smith, who has a trip to Paris written on her bucket list, said the feelings of love will overpower hatred after attacks Friday in the French city.
“A seed of hatred has been planted in the earth, and that seed that we all got was a seed of love. And that love can overshadow all of this if we continue to spread love,” said Smith, who is an associate minister at St. John Baptist Church in Gainesville.
Smith and other French speakers gathered at Gainesville City Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras’ house Monday night.
“The idea is that we can at least come together to speak a little French because we like to speak French. As a result of this, my world has become such a big world,” Figueras said.
The group meets on the third Monday of each month as a way to share the language and culture of one of the United States’ longest allies, Gainesville architect Jack Bailey said.
“They’ve been there when we’ve needed them,” he said. “It’s a culture that has given the world arts and music. It’s just a wonderfully unique culture, and this group not only shares the language, but we share the culture.”
Following the attacks involving explosions and gunmen in separate locations, the group’s meeting discussed the emotions around the tragedy.
“Tonight we really wanted to be together for solidarity,” said Mimi Cundiff, a translator.
Saphir Grici and wife Kate Marsden, who live in Athens, moved to Georgia from France two years ago and operate a food truck called “Holy Crepe.”
Grici said he was able to check on his friends and family in the area, adding that many of them were traumatized by the events Friday.
“It was our old neighborhood,” Marsden said. “We walked these streets and we always felt so safe there. You had to maybe watch out for pickpockets as your biggest danger.”
Lives lived in the French capital are outside and with the people, Grici said.
“When the bar or a cinema or a stadium are attacked, it’s like your home is attacked because you live outside,” he said.
Jack Bailey and former Times publisher Sandra Bailey stayed at the same Paris hotel for the past 10 years on their visits. After a decade, the husband and wife have become friends with the staff and crew at the hotel.
“We sent them a message the other day and said ‘we’re thinking about you,’” Jack Bailey said.
Their response: “We’re all OK, but who knows what tomorrow will bring?”
In immediate reaction to the events, Cundiff said she was impressed and amazed at the response online from her colleagues, many of whom are from France.
For each person attempting to harm the people of Paris, there were 100 more at the ready to provide help and support throughout the city, Marsden said.
“We don’t react with hate and bombs. We react with love and understanding, and we try to keep it together and realize they are isolated incidents,” Cundiff said.