Paris attacks: On the day after, less 'joie de vivre'

Paris mourns for the dead
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Story highlights

  • Day after terror attacks, a dark mood envelopes the City of Light
  • Streets half empty; stores and cinemas closed

Jim Bittermann is CNN's senior European correspondent based in Paris.

(CNN)In sunnier times the French called it joie de vivre -- a carefree joy of life. Millions come here looking for it; but these are not sunnier times.

These days they have another expression that fits: mal au coeur, which means both nausea and heartache.
    To be sure there were still plenty of people Saturday posing for selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower and finding a lover's lips along the Seine. But there were also the police stops in front of the closed shops. In fact, all of the Christmas markets in town have been closed down. The terrorists have managed to steal a little bit of joy out of Christmas.
    The carousel horses were covered and stopped. Other horses with policemen on their backs have taken their place along the Champs Elysees, the avenue the French think is the most beautiful in the world.
    Here and there restaurants remained open, and you could still hear a laugh or two. But cinemas were dark and shuttered; flags flew at half staff over half empty streets; the gates were locked at the upscale stores.

    Innocence taken away

    Some commentators have called this the French 9/11, just like they did after the attacks in January at the magazine Charlie Hebdo. In sheer numbers the New York tragedy was clearly much worse that those in France, but all three share some things in common: they all make people feel vulnerable -- just like they do in Paris today -- they all took away a little innocence and sucked the joie de vivre right out of the air.
    When the Eiffel Tower -- the symbol of Paris -- went up, it materialized that joie de vivre. It was a called at the time a "folie" -- a crazy idea.
    The tower Saturday night was closed and dark. No one seems in the mood just now for crazy ideas.