OPINION: Deja vu at the horror of Paris

LIKE most decent people, I watched the news from Paris unfold on Saturday morning with a dreadful sense of déjà vu.

My memory of 9/11, sitting on my bed watching a tiny television that was broadcasting scenes I hoped I'd never live to see again, came flooding back.

Smoke, mayhem and fluttering figures

I've deliberately avoided watching that footage in the years since; I'm not pretending it never happened but there are some things I prefer to not think about.

I couldn't bring myself to watch any of the films on that subject released in the years since; the thought of smoke, mayhem and fluttering figures plummeting to the ground still reduce me to tears.

Predictably, within minutes of the weekend mayhem being broadcast, a number of emails landed in my inbox.

All came from my more conservative friends.

Most were meticulously prepared lists of atrocities perpetrated by ratbags, all of whom followed the more radical branch of a particular religion.

Defecting the bile

In the immediate aftermath of the Paris horror, I found it difficult to think of something - anything - I could reply to these hate-filled missives to deflect the bile.

The best I could do was that the law-abiding vast majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today must be just as horrified by the weekend news as the rest of us.

Perhaps more so; I was raised a Catholic and encountered a certain amount of prejudice growing up but unless I discussed the beliefs I held back then, nobody knew.

Followers of Islam are often easy to spot because of the clothing they wear, particularly the women, and those same women are an easy target for violence, menace and abuse.

Memory in London

Then I remembered a trip I made to England years ago. I was a young mother of a very small baby; it was winter and I was having a tough time navigating my way around the snow-filled traffic-clogged streets of London pushing a stroller.

Keen to experience as much as possible, we ended up in the Tower of London, viewing the glittering, spectacular excess of the crown jewels.

The goodies were displayed behind thick armoured glass; to deter thieves, I thought.

Then, while glancing down to attend to my son for a moment, I saw a bronze plaque set into the floor right beneath my feet.

It was a memorial to Dorothy Household, a librarian killed by an IRA bomb detonated on that very spot in 1974, and the other 41 tourists injured in the same blast.

Terror over the centuries

Acts of terror have happened for centuries and it's easy to forget what has come before.

On Saturday, the sheer goodness of strangers, those who opened their doors to stranded tourists in Paris, sheltered the fallen, and came together to mourn must give us hope.