A young French man clasping a bunch of white roses stood crying at the Spire. His friend, wearing the French tricolour loosely wrapped around his shoulders, attempted to console him, but his sense of grief was also evident. They were not alone.
Thousands of people lined Dublin’s O’Connell Street in the pouring rain. They were Irish, French, young and old; all there to pay their respects and show solidarity with the people of France.
It had only been a mere eighteen hours since the tragic Paris attacks occurred. Over one hundred people confirmed dead, hundreds more injured, millions now living in fear after the Islamic State took responsibility for the attacks.
The march, which began at the Spire, was organised by a 21-year-old Parisian au pair who is living in Dublin.
Some people present wore their French rugby jerseys and the tricolour draped across their shoulders, others brought flowers while many held signs aloft saying “Je Suis Paris” and “Solidarite”.
A man poised himself at the top of Henry Street with a megaphone, preaching to those standing at the Spire. A sign at the bottom of his feet read “without faith, it is impossible to please God”.
“Where was God last night?” a sobbing French girl retorted from the arms of her partner.
The atmosphere was one of mourning, but there was also a hint of defiance. It was somewhat symbolic that the march route took people past the statue of Jim Larkin, which has the profound words of Patrick Kavanagh written on the side – “And tyranny trampled them in Dublin’s cutter until Jim Larkin came along and cried the call of freedom”.
One woman crossing over O’Connell Bridge held a sign above her head which had an adamant message for the terrorists responsible: “you can’t take our freedom”. Her little daughter tightly clutched her hand, oblivious to what was going on, innocently unaware of the evils of this world.
As thousands of people made their way along Westmoreland Street and Nassau Street, support for the people of Paris continued to grow as many others joined in along the way.
The march came to a halt outside Leinster House, where a moment of silence was held. Amidst the silence, sobs could be heard. Friends and couples comforted each other with hugs and kisses.
A heartbreaking rendition of “La Marseillaise” then ensued. The French national anthem is usually sang boisterously by its people, but today it was noticeably subdued.
Afterwards, an ominous silence once again descended over the usually bustling Kildare Street. Nobody seemed to want to talk, just reflect, or comprehend. But how could they comprehend?
Just like the young French man stood at the Spire crying, tightly clenching his white roses, nobody can fathom the remorseless events which unfolded in Paris on Friday night. Nor can anyone predict what the future now holds.
There was a combined sense of fear, sadness and disbelief among the people marching the streets of Dublin on Saturday, but there also remained some hope.
Hope that terrorism will not prevail and world leaders will unite to combat the evil which has been witnessed, not just in Paris, but all across the world.