Stillman Standout: Reflection on Charlie Hebdo

By Pilar Martinez,
International News Guest Writer

Pilar Martinez is a junior, studying Marketing and International Business. This semester, she is studying abroad in Grenoble, France with the Grenoble Ecole de Management. During her time in France, the Charlie Hebdo attacks occurred, sending shockwaves throughout France. Here is Pilar’s account of the her experience while in France.

“Je Suis Charlie”:  the phrase that so many nations are familiar with, and have translated into their own languages.

The reunification of a country, and the damaged relationship shared with another. Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper in France, posted a cartoon image which some people took offense to, resulting in an attack on the paper’s headquarters and two hostage crises days later.   France now refers to the attacks as the French 9/11.

The news on Charlie Hebdo spread to the rest of the world in no time at all.  Soon after, the Je Suis Charlie signs and other symbols of support were not only shown in France, but in New York, Germany, and Denmark as well, in addition to many other places.

Je Suis Charlie, translated as “I am Charlie” in English, signifies support and a desperate plea to maintain both the identity of Charlie Hebdo and the right to freedom of speech.

The streets of France filled with people, peaceful protestors, if you will.  The news reported on tens, hundreds, and many thousands of people are marching for their freedom of expression.

Organized walks were scheduled to take place in the city of Grenoble, a small city located in the valley of the Alps, which had over 110,000 people attend the walk through town.

Trams were shut down, stores were closed, and the French prepared to walk the streets with their “Je Suis Charlie” signs in hand.  They often had a pencil as well to symbolize freedom of speech and the importance of their statement.

At a nearby church at Victor Hugo, people gathered around in a circle every day for a week to surround the site with signs, candles, and flowers in remembrance of those who had been lost.

A moment of silence was held in the city of Grenoble in which the already-quiet town became absolutely silent.

People walking often stopped to pray and observe those gathering around the circle of items to see what had been written on the notes.

People wrote their feelings in every language, expressing their emotions and reactions.  One note said in English: “I would rather stand up for what I believe than to die on my knees.”

The initial attacks were only the beginning. A cartoon was posted in Charlie Hebdo that stated “Tout est pardonné” which means “All is forgiven.”  However, instead of a positive reaction, this resulted in further anger from people affiliated with the attackers.

The French military was directed to walk the streets to protect the people from potential terrorist attacks.  They surrounded parks, centers of town, airports, and major train and bus stations.

As alarming and disturbing as the actions that have taken place here are, France is standing strong for what it believes in, with the rest of the world on its side.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 27th print edition.

Contact Pilar at

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