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January 8, 2015


“Je Suis Charlie”

by soundlandscapes

WHAT A DIFFERENCE a day makes!

Shortly before 11.00 this morning I arrived in Place Jean-Paul II, the open space in front of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, to find that it was home to a selection of the world’s media. Radio and TV broadcasters were busy establishing satellite links with their studios and preparing to broadcast ‘live’ to their audiences around the world.

Notre Dame - Charlie Hebdo

Yet twenty-four hours earlier the media would have been hard pressed to find a story here – any story – let alone a story worth reporting. But then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, everything changed.

Notre Dame - Charlie Hebdo

Shortly before 11.30 yesterday morning, 7th January, two masked gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher stormed the headquarters of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in rue Nicolas Appert in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. They shot and killed twelve people, including eight Charlie Hebdo employees and two police officers, and wounded eleven others.

After the news broke, there was an outpouring of sympathy for the victims, support for freedom of speech, and defiance against the perpetrators. The symbol for all this became encapsulated by the declaration, “Je Suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”).


At midday today people in Paris and across France paused for a minute of silence to mourn the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Notre Dame - Charlie Hebdo

In declaring today a day of national mourning it was decreed that flags on all public buildings should be flown at half mast and that the bells of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris should be rung in honour of the victims.

The Bells of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris speaking for the nation:

From the Place Jean-Paul II I listened as the cathedral bells began to peal a minute or two before midday. The rain fell, a crowd gathered and then the sound of the bells faded and the crowd fell silent. The sound of a police siren in the distance reminded us why we were here and brought into stark relief the names of those who were not, those who were murdered at around this time yesterday …

  • Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker for Sodexo, killed in the lobby
  • Franck Brinsolaro, 49, police officer, was assigned as a bodyguard for Charb
  • Cabu (Jean Cabut) 76, cartoonist
  • Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist
  • Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist and editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo
  • Philippe Honoré, 74, cartoonist
  • Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
  • Ahmed Merabet, 42, police officer, shot in the head as he lay wounded on the ground outside.
  • Moustapha Ourad, proofreader
  • Michel Renaud, 69, festival organiser, a guest at the meeting
  • Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist
  • Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist

After the silence the bells began to peal again and they did so for a further twenty minutes. Despite the heavy rain, practically everyone stayed until the bells had finished after which there was spontaneous applause.

It seemed to me that the silence, surrounded by the sound of the bells and the sound of the rain falling like tears from the sky said everything that needed to be said.

Notre Dame - Charlie Hebdo

The remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo have announced that publication will continue, with next week’s edition of the newspaper to be released as usual except that, with eight pages, it will be half its usual length – but it will have a print run of one million copies compared to its usual 60,000.

Notre Dame - Charlie Hebdo

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 8 2015

    Thank you, Des, for bringing us these precious sounds of respect, unity and steadfastness in the face of such a heinous and cowardly crime. May they rest in peace.

    • Jan 8 2015

      Thank you S. It was a privilege for me to be at Notre Dame today not only to pay my respects but to capture these historic sounds. These sounds will be making their way to my Paris Soundscapes Collection in the Sound Archives of the British Library where they will live forever as a tribute to those who lost their lives yesterday at Charlie Hebdo.

  2. hmunro
    Jan 8 2015

    In the past 24 hours I’ve read the news reports with horror and have then watched the masses gather in collective mourning, but I think this is one of the more moving tributes I’ve experienced yet. The silence of this crowd really said it all. Thank you for being there to capture this heartbreaking but historic moment, Des.

    • Jan 8 2015

      Thanks Heather.

      This of course is very familiar turf for you so I’m not at all surprised these sounds strike an extra chord with you. Of course, unlike the broadcasters who constantly reduce everything down to 20 second soundbites, I have the luxury of being able to give the sounds the time and the space to breath, to speak and to tell their own story – and their story today was compelling.

      • hmunro
        Jan 9 2015

        I am SO GRATEFUL you were there, Des, precisely because our world has been reduced to 20-second soundbites. Years from now the breathless commentaries with brief snippets of video and sound will give a mere glimpse of important moments in history, but your recordings will endure to show what it was like to *be there.* And as you so beautifully say, today you gave those sounds the opportunity to tell their own story. Merci infiniment.

  3. hmunro
    Jan 8 2015

    Reblogged this on HeatherBlog and commented:
    Millions of words have already been penned about yesterday’s massacre in Paris. But as my friend Des’ artful recording demonstrates, sometimes silence is the most poignant tribute of all.

  4. Graeme Sadd
    Jan 8 2015

    One Day and a profound change. A day that makes a real difference to so many,Thank you.

    • Jan 8 2015

      Thank you Graeme. It just proves that we never know what tomorrow has in store!

  5. Jan 9 2015

    Thank you for writing that. And thank you for naming and detailling each of the victims. I can’t begin to imagine how their families and friends are making any sense of what happened yesterday. Sense is the wrong word – understanding, coping with? I’m not sure we have words to describe what they must be going through.

    Your words are just right: ‘the silence, surrounded by the sound of the bells and the sound of the rain falling like tears from the sky said everything that needed to be said.’

  6. Jan 9 2015

    Sorry – I forgot to put my name to that – Elaine

  7. Jan 9 2015

    A well written tribute. And the sound of the bells are moving and sad. Thank you.

  8. Horizon Horizon
    Jan 9 2015

    Good evening,

    In my hometown Maassluis (near Rotterdam in the Netherlands) we also remembered the victims of Charlie Hebdo. Yesterday at 18:00 hour. The audio impression is in Dutch of course. But it’s just to let you know that we where also shocked when we heared what hat happened.

    Met vriendelijke groet,

    Chrit Wilshaus, freelance (audio)journalist,

    Tekstinzicht Audio (producent audiomagazine Horizon) 010 – 599.0910 06 -2123.7614 Jongkindstraat 9 d 3141 JG Maassluis

  9. Jan 10 2015

    Merci Des. Sometimes we don’t need many words (if any) to convey a heartfelt sentiment or outpouring of solidarity with the fallen…


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