The message was loud and clear at events held in Carroll Gardens, Washington Heights and Jackson Heights Sunday: New York stands with France.
Dozens of New Yorkers, some of whom had strong French roots, walked through the streets with candles, held flags from the nations affected by recent terror attacks and recited prayers for peace from various religious creeds.
“We need to be in peace together. We need to show what we can do for them,” said Jean-Jacques Bernat, a native of France who’s lived in Carroll Gardens for 19 years and owns a French restaurant there.
The bombings carried out by the Islamic State killed about 130 people and injured hundreds more Friday night.
Some attendees at vigils Sunday said they had flashbacks to the aftermath of 9/11 when the city united to call for peace.
“This is horrible. It doesn’t matter if it’s Paris or Puerto Rico, it has to stop,” said Kevin Klepper, 53, a general contractor from Washington Heights.
Rebecca Lazier, 47, who lives in Carroll Gardens and has three children in the French program at PS 58, said her family attended the rally this weekend to help them cope after the tragedy.
“We need to be part of a community and I believe it’s important for them … to be able to come together and learn ways to support each other,” she said.
One form of support that the crowds agreed upon was the continued aid to refugees from Syria and other nations that are under attack by extremist groups. Despite the criticism from some pundits who say the Paris attacks should prompt nations to stop accepting refugees, New Yorkers said the attacks showed the exact opposite.
“ISIS would like nothing better than for us to close our doors to refugees,” City Councilman Mark Levine said at the Washington Heights rally.
At the same time, leaders and attendees at the vigils stressed that anger shouldn’t be directed toward Muslims. John Bean, 52, a French native and psychotherapist who lives in Washington Heights, said residents of Paris and New York value diversity and will continue to promote tolerance.
“My hope is France and the rest of us hopefully understand that all of these folks are very, very marginalized and not at all representative of the Muslim faith,” he said.
New Yorkers didn’t forget the victims of terror attacks in other parts of the world including Kenya and Lebanon. Flags of those two nations were seen alongside the U.S. and French colors.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn), who attended the Brooklyn rally, said she has received many calls from constituents asking how they can help the victims.
“We come together to send a message that they will not be allowed to have the space to destroy humanity. We are stronger than they are,” she said.