Driving towards the Place de la République on the East-side of Paris, we started observing hundreds of people walking along the sidewalk as of the St. Lazare train station, 4km away from where the march was supposed to begin. As we drove along, the flow turned into thousands. By the time we got to Gare Du Nord with our little Italian Vespa we were asked by the police to park and carry on by foot. We were still 2,5km away from our starting point.
The further we walked down the Boulevard de Magenta the denser the crowd became. We were advancing extremely slowly and suprisingly silently. There was an ambiance of solidarity and human compassion mixed with a sense of dignity and resistance.
Neighbours were watching the procession from their balconies playing "All you need is love" on their stereos. Strangers were smiling at each other making conversation. We sang "La Marseillaise", the national anthem of France, and every once in a while we chanted "Charlie, Charlie, Charlie".
We watched the local news on our smartphones to witness the more than 40 world leaders who headed the somber procession - their arms linked - setting aside their differences for a manifestation that French President Francois Hollande said turned the city into "the capital of the world."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood near Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also marched.
Today's rally for unity against terrorism was the largest demonstration in France's history. Some commentators said the last street presence in the capital on this scale was at the Liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany in 1944. Paris police said the turnout was "without precedent" but too large to count. One organiser said he had indications it could be around 2 million people.
All ages, races and religions came together today to out-dare the acts of violence and terror that had besieged our city. France needed to come to terms with the state of shock that had prevailed over the past few days. After today's experience it seems, we can now move on with a new "prise de conscience".
We never even made it to the Place de la République, we left after one and a half hours - walking towards it - surrounded by thousands of pacifists, having shown our compassion and voiced our opinion for liberty and freedom of speech. Vive la liberté! Vive la France!
Marianne, leading the troops!
As it turns out, the troops were 2 million!
Each voicing their opinion.
"Je suis Musulman"
Of course, the French wisdom is part of the culture
The next generation promises to do better
following what's going on up front on our neighbour's smartphone
Vive Charlie Hebdo
A manifest with an impact
Observing from a prime location
Even the media have been very fast to react
A side street just as full as the main procession path