One day after deadly terror attacks shook Paris, San Diegans showed their support for the people of France by leaving flowers and heartfelt notes as part of a makeshift memorial in Balboa Park.
Residents from across the county visited the House of France in the International Cottages Center in Balboa Park Saturday, a nonprofit organization that fosters appreciation of France and the country’s culture.
The doors were closed, but that did not stop visitors from leaving their condolences.
Visitors left thoughtful tokens on the doorstep of the House of France – symbols of solidarity as Frances reels from the tragedy that, as of Saturday afternoon, had left 129 dead and 352 wounded.
One of the items left at the makeshift memorial was a touching note written in French left behind by the House of Puerto Rico, a neighbor of the nonprofit.
San Diego resident and French-American Sarah Malka visited the site also, and translated the note.
“We are united in solidarity with our French brothers and sisters,” she read. “Vive La France!”
Despite the feeling of unitedness, the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris sparked a sense of fear in some San Diegans currently living abroad in the city, including Raul Ruiz.
“It’s a bit of a state of paranoia and fear,” Ruiz told NBC 7. “I really like going to concerts and knowing that [one of the attacks was at] a concert hall makes me afraid.”
Malka also said the massacre in Paris has left her feeling numb.
“I’m in shock – terrible shock,” she said. “It’s very worrisome.”
Malka’s brother lives in Paris and he told her he could hear gunshots outside his home Friday night as the city was under attack.
Del Cerro residents Ray Fluta and Marc Overton have traveled to France every year since 2004. They visited the House of France with flowers and a poster, a simple gesture amid the tragedy.
Overton said he and Fluta consider themselves Francophiles who very much love France.
They felt compelled to show their love for the country – even from afar.
Fluta said seeing news coverage of some of their favorite places in Paris under attack was surreal.
“At first you can’t believe it. We [thought], ‘We were there – just a few blocks away.’ And we’ve walked past those places,” he explained. “It’s just hard to believe it. Paris is so vibrant. It’s just a beautiful city.”
“It’s terribly heartbreaking to see it. I just hope we’re seeing the tail-end of these kinds of terrible things rather than the beginning,” said Overton.
The House of France plans to hold a "Je Suis Paris" gathering at 8 p.m. on Nov. 20 to pay tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks.