Today is “National Take a Hike Day.” I discovered this little tidbit of information last Thursday and, at that time, I decided to write about our local walking trails. From there, I was planning on writing about the joy of the great outdoors.
Whether you ride a bike, run, hike or just meander along a wooded trail, being outside and enjoying nature during a crisp, 30-minute autumn walk is such a blessing.
That was my plan — to write about the joys of nature and the benefits of being outside.
Then, on Friday afternoon, at 3:20 p.m. Ohio time, a terrorist pressed a button and exploded a bomb in his backpack. He was standing just outside of the French national soccer stadium. He killed himself and one other person.
The planned and coordinated attack on Paris began with that single explosion.
Five minutes later, a black car pulled up near the banks of the Canal St. Martin. Cafes were filled with patrons enjoying the cool, late evening.
It was 9:25 p.m. in Paris. Their conversation and laughter was cut short by the rapid-fire of the terrorist’s Kalashnikovs. Fifteen people were killed as they sat at their outdoor tables. Ten others were critically injured.
Five minutes later, another suicide bomber blew himself up outside the soccer stadium. This time, no one died except the terrorist. Had he been able to get inside the stadium, the bomb could have killed dozens.
Two minutes after that, at 9:32 p.m., another black car pulled up near the Rue de la Fontaine au Roi. Five people were killed by the terrorists. Eight innocent people were wounded by the spray of terrorist gunfire.
Four minutes later, another black car stopped at a popular Parisian bar, the Belle Equipe. A witness reported that a gunman got out of the vehicle. A second gunman stayed inside the car. Both started shooting at the people who had been enjoying a pleasant Friday night. Nineteen people were killed. Nine were wounded.
Another four minutes pass and a black car pulled up in front of a large concert hall, the Bataclan. Three terrorists stepped out of the car and entered the nightclub. They fired their automatic weapons as they entered and continued firing as they took the entire audience hostage. Then, they methodically started shooting people.
It has been reported that the gunmen inside the Bataclan remained calm. They targeted people and they fired randomly. They took their time, pausing several times to reload. Eighty-nine innocent people were killed. Hundreds were wounded. It was two and a half hours before the French security forces were able to stop the terror inside the Bataclan concert hall. One terrorist was shot. The other two killed themselves.
At the same time that the terrorists were entering the Bataclan, another suicide bomber blew himself up at another outdoor café. One patron was injured, but the terrorist was the only one killed.
At 9:53 p.m., Paris time, a third terrorist blew himself up near the soccer stadium. Again, he was the only one to die.
The initial attack started at 3:20 p.m., Wilmington time. Thirty-three minutes later the terrorists had completed their coordinated attack on innocent people in Paris. In that short period of time, approximately 130 people were killed and 350 were wounded by terrorists who later claimed to be members of ISIS.
At least seven terrorists were part of the attack. One was killed by police. Six killed themselves. Several other terrorists are thought to have been involved. They are now eluding authorities.
Why? What would motivate nearly a dozen people to want to kill, wound and maim strangers?
By definition, terrorists are part of some organization or movement intent on changing society. They hate that which they are trying to change. Violence, mayhem and killing are part of their strategy. It is what they do.
No amount of analysis, no amount of rational thought will ever explain the hatred that fills the hearts of the terrorists. They will try to justify what they do. Other terrorists may understand their motives, but normal, peaceful people will not.
How should we respond?
We should refuse to give in to fear. We should refuse to allow the hatred that fills their hearts to invade our hearts and our lives. Despite the violence and killing, we must not give up. We must not allow terrorism to succeed. We must continue to fight terrorism with every means at our disposal, and we must not succumb to their hatred.
It would have been much easier to write about “National Take a Hike Day,” but we cannot ignore the pain of our friends in Paris. In the short amount of time it would have taken to walk briskly around my neighborhood, terrorists destroyed the lives of hundreds of innocent people.
Sadly, it will happen again and again.
Pray for them.
Randy Riley is Mayor of Wilmington.