BGSU grad marches in unity rally for France

Thousands of people gather during a demonstration march in Lille, France, on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in support of the victims of this week’s twin attacks in Paris. Hundreds of extra troops are being deployed around Paris after three days of terror in the French capital killed 17 people and left the nation in shock. (Patrick Delecroix/Maxppp/Zuma Press/TNS)

Jim Sielicki

ANNECY, France — A recent Bowling Green State University student who arrived in southeast France earlier this month to work as an au pair, found herself marching in solidarity with thousands of people in a show of unity against last week’s terrorist attacks that killed 17 people.

Claiborne Vonier, 23, who until recently lived in West Toledo, said thousands of people gathered Sunday in the historic center of Annecy shouting support for the slain members of the publication Charlie Hebdo, the victims in a kosher grocery store and police officers who were gunned down.

“With everything going on, how could you not go?” she said in a phone interview with The Blade from France.

Her host family, along with their daughters, ages 4 and 6, took her to the Sunday afternoon rally site, a normal 10-minute distance away that required more than an hour because of the heavy traffic leading to the town center.

There the family joined the group as it marched through town to Lake Annecy, about 22 miles south of Geneva, near the border with Switzerland.

“There was a lot of chanting, ‘Je Suis Charlie’ (I Am Charlie),” said Vonier, who arrived in Annecy on Jan. 2.

The Annecy rally was one of many across France, the largest being in Paris. Officials called it the largest street demonstration in the nation’s history.

At least 3.7 million people demonstrated across France, according to the Interior Ministry, with 1.2 million to 1.6 million people in Paris alone.

The slayings, along with the nation’s reaction, have changed French family life, she said.

Evening dinners, a traditional quiet time devoted to family, food and conversations, were upended.

The television, normally off during mealtime, is now a dinner guest. Updates are watched and analyzed, she said.

“In France, dinner is a very important family time,” she said. “They don’t get up from the table for anything.”

When the news programs are shown at 8 p.m., “everything just drops” to watch, said Vonier, who grew up in Archbold, Ohio, where her parents, Chris and Ronda Vonier, live.

Jim Sielicki/AP