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Honouring the victims of the Paris attacks

By Samantha Reed [6]

BELLEVILLE –Molly Gastle stands quietly while listening to public officials speak of peace and remembrance, the only noise that can be heard are the camera shutters’ clicks.

She stands between two friends as a small memorial made of candles burns at her feet.

Gastle was one of hundreds who gathered around city hall last night to hold a vigil for the victims of Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, which left at least 129 people dead and more than 350 wounded. The attacks occurred at several locations, including a concert hall, soccer stadium and several bars and restaurants across the city.

Paris is her favourite place, Gastle said.

“It’s so full of light and music and art and happiness. Everyone is so happy. It’s just awful and it’s just so sad to see everything,” she said.

She said she wishes she could go back to Paris to pay her respects, but cannot, so chose to do so in Belleville.

Taylor McMullan, who helped Gastle set up the makeshift candle memorial, said they came to the vigil because it gave them a sense of community and comfort during the tragedy.

The event was put together by Belleville Police Const. Todd Bennett.

Standing on stage with him were Liberal MP-Elects Neil Ellis and Mike Bossio, Chamber 0f Commerce CEO Bill Saunders, Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith, Belleville Police Chief Cory MacKay and Maj. Wil Brown-Ratcliffe of the Salvation Army Community Church.

MacKay took to the podium to encourage people to not let anger get the best of them.

“We cannot allow our anger, which is very very well understood, to turn into hate against others who are innocent,” she said. “We must make sure that we do not follow through with hate against other innocent victims.”

Those in the crowd said they weren’t angry at the terrorists, but rather sad for the victims. Sherry Bryans said what happened in Paris is not fair.

“There’s a lot of feelings with the refugees coming. I don’t speak up a lot, but I have my own feelings that a lot of them are not terrorists or planning to come and do the same,” she said.

Bryans said she came to show her support for those who are suffering.

Many who stood in the crowd still wore festive Christmas hats and mittens from the annual Christmas parade that ran through the city an hour earlier.

Brown-Ratcliffe of the Salvation Army said a solemn vigil following the parade was fitting.

Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith also took to the podium, and did his best to speak to the people of Paris.

Smith was on route to Queen’s Park, but decided to drive back for the vigil.