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EDITORIAL: Full circle on Paris
The distance between peace and terror on Friday seemed about as far as the distance from Pennsylvania to Paris.
World War II veteran Morley Piper — who has seen both in France — told of storming the beach at Normandy at a gathering of Pennsylvania journalists just hours before Paris witnessed the worst atrocities since Morley Piper stood on its shores 71 years ago.
A member of the Greatest Generation ushered in a day that ended with the latest generation struggling to make sense of a warring humanity.
Piper, 91, of Essex, Massachusetts, was a member of the 29th Infantry Division that, on June 6, 1944, came ashore on the beach at Normandy to change the course of the war — and of history. He and tens of thousands of soldiers like him fought bravely against the forces of Nazi hate and aggression.
As Piper spoke to members of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, he quietly relayed the events World War II — and his role in the ultimate liberation of Paris — and somehow, simultaneously, brought a feeling of hope to journalists who often report on the best and the worst of humanity in the course of their daily work.
Piper's humble strength — and the humble strength of his generation — is uplifting, beyond inspiring.
They require a gratitude that is beyond words, a gratitude that is without measure.
Then, nightfall in Paris. Attacks across six sites, including a music venue hosting a sold-out concert and the Stade de France, a stadium on the edge of the city, left more than 120 people dead and nearly three times as many wounded.
It left a world in shock.
Over the weekend, we have been left to emerge from our shock and try to understand the forces of terror behind these unconscionable acts.
How does this change our world? These isolated home-grown cells are meant to infuse terror into the mundane and make us fearful as we move through our daily rounds.
But terror doesn't have to win.
Exhibit the man who towed his piano behind his bike to the front of the Paris concert hall where more than 75 people were killed as they enjoyed a concert Friday night. He sat down and played John Lennon's "Imagine" to a crowd of journalists and mourners.
A simple peace sign adorned the piano. The strains of the song were particularly beautiful, hopeful and a bit mournful, too.
Peace comes at a price. There are those so mired in hate and anger — and fear — that the things they do can only be characterized as pure evil.
And then there are the heroes of the world, those like Morley Piper, who relinquished their innocence as young men so that we might know peace and prosperity in our lifetime.
The evil isn't going away as long as there is fear and hatred in the heart of human beings.
We have to hold on to the hopeful knowledge that peace is never out of reach.
It's hard-fought and hard-won, perhaps.
But it's always the strongest, truest impulse.
And it must be our first, in honor of the Morley Pipers of the world.