All over France, blue-white-red national flags flew from buildings on Friday. President Francois Hollande had asked people to hoist the tricolor in patriotic solidarity with the 130 people terrorists massacred two weeks ago in Paris.
And in the grand square of the Hotel National des Invalides, Hollande called guests together to mourn the killings in a national ceremony.
Attack survivors appeared alongside grieving families of those killed and diplomats representing countries of victims hailing from outside France.
“They were shot dead because they were freedom,” Hollande said of the victims. In the name of the nation, he extended “our compassion, our affection toward the families, the nearest and dearest … parents who no longer see their children. The children who will grow up without their parents.”
Though the President’s words were tender and poetic, the spot chosen for the ceremony was laden with ominous symbolism.
Paris has many expansive public gathering places, but the Les Invalides is a collection of museums and monuments to centuries of French military might. The remains of Napoleon Bonaparte are interred there.
Dignitaries and mourners were flanked by rows and columns of stern-faced troops in ceremonial dress, holding weapons at attention.
And Hollande directed a threat at ISIS on behalf of the people gathered before him.
“I promise you solemnly that France will do everything to destroy the army of the fanatics who carried out these crimes,” he said.
Les Invalides was a fitting place for Hollande to stand at the end of a week filled with beating war drums against ISIS.
Since the November 13 attacks, France has been at war with the militant group, Hollande has held, and he has vowed to destroy it. On Monday, French war planes flew airstrikes against ISIS from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
And Hollande’s appointment calendar filled up with meetings with world leaders — starting with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday and ending with a visit to Moscow to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.