On Friday, 13 November, just over 300 days since the 7 January attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket, Paris was attacked again, in several places at once. 129, mostly young people, were killed.
The government's response has been forceful. Président François Hollande says that France is at war.
The notion of being at war reminded me of our Verdun reflections. These had included a short segment on Guillaume Apollinaire, a poet who served on the front line of the Western Front. At the onset of war, Apollinaire composed these lines for his poem, La Petite Auto:
Nous dîmes adieu à toute une époque
Des géants furieux se dressaient sur l'Europe
Les aigles quittaient leur aire attendant le soleil
Les poissons voraces montaient des abîmes
Les peuples accouraient pour se connâitre à fond
Les morts tremblaient de peur dans leurs sombres demeures
Furious giants were standing over Europe
Eagles left their eyrie, waiting for the sun
Ravenous fish rose from the depths
Nations flocked together to know each other deep down
The dead trembled with fear in their dark dwelling places
Apollinaire was also a casualty and was invalided out of the army in 1916 with a shrapnel wound to the head. He died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, two days before the signing of the Armistice.
His words above, 100 years later strike me as having a resonance with today.
Where do we go from here? Will it always be like this? Is the future changed utterly?
Discussing the legacy of Verdun, our small group took comfort at the reconciliation, even after the devastation of two world wars, that has taken place between France and Germany. The leaders of the two countries will stand together in May 2016 to remember those who died 100 years ago in the battle of Verdun.
I expect, as they reflect on lessons learned, that their thoughts will also include those who died in Paris, Beirut, Syria, Libya and other war-torn countries that make up our fractured world.
We too must reflect. It is our devoir de mémoire.