* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Sunday, September 28, 2014

In Memoriam

Hervé Gourdel 01

As I posted my last entry, the first part of our week doing fall cleaning at a camp facility, we got the news of the hideous death of Hervé Gourdel, the kidnapped and slain French mountain guide, by Algerian terrorists.  What was especially poignant for us personally is that he came from the same village as the camp, where we just spent a week, and we go there several times a year. 

It was like he was a neighbor, which brings tragedy so much closer to home.  Also, he was a guide in the mountains I've personally done a lot of hiking in myself, which doubled the familiarity feeling.

Hervé Gourdel 02
Our camp's contribution
Because our camp has a long-standing relationship with the village, we ended up sending a bouquet of flowers to the memorial march.  As you can imagine, the village was quite shaken by this tragedy, and last Thursday they staged an evening march  of solidarity with the family. 

Hervé Gourdel 03
A local outpouring of sympathy
Since this was a very French style event (maybe it's similar elsewhere, but this is my experience), I thought I'd share how the local people react in such a situation.  In this case, over 800 people gathered in this little village of 1,100 inhabitants, many carrying posters of the deceased, and they placed candles and flowers at the headquarters of his guide business.  You can see our bouquet there with the others.

Hervé Gourdel 04
Memorial at Hervé's office
There were a number of area dignitaries who joined the local mayor, including the mayor of Nice and some of his office, a local priest, and several local imams.  As you can imagine, the whole community is totally shocked.  Hervé has had his guide business in this village since 1987 and of course had made many friends.

While we don't know the village mayor, we've met the mayor of Nice on multiple occasions when he's come to our own village's events.  We happen to have our own mayor, but there's a strong relationship among all the local mayors.

Not only has Hervé himself dedicated his whole life to mountain climbing and guiding, his 15-year-old son is in a rock-climbing section of his high school.  So there was a big turnout of students who hiked to the march in solidarity with the son for his father.  There was also a group of about 30 other guides from other regions who wanted to contribute to the memorial, which is as close to a funeral as possible at the moment.  Nobody has ever seen so many people congregated in this simple little mountain village.

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Uncomprehending youth supporting one of their own
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Filling the narrow streets

While this whole event seemed very personal and local to us, apparently this death has really affected all of France.  The president ordered the national flag at half-mast over the whole country for a full three days, and there have been marches all over the country in tribute.  While we did not go, we have friends who were part of the 3,000 people who joined the Nice march on Saturday.

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Solidarity on the streets of Nice
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Solidarity along the banks of the Med

As one of his colleagues and friends commented, "We are all of the mountain.  We have the habit of losing friends in accidents.  But this is an assassination in horrible conditions.  Hervé was a simple person, a guide, who certainly didn't ask to become an international martyr."   He liked adventure, but he apparently always took sensible precautions.  I'm not sure (the news is contradictory) whether he was on his own vacation in Algeria or leading a guided hike, but he was doing something that he really enjoyed.

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Observing strata
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Learning geology
I happened to come across someone's blog from 2009 who was part of one of Hervé's guided trips into the local mountains that I myself have been to.  On a happier note, I thought I'd just share what they experienced under his tutelage.

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Listening to the expert
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Exploring nature

People come from all over the world to hike in our local mountains; but I guess one enjoys searching other neighborhoods once one has explored their own backyard.  He regularly led guided expeditions in the mountains of Nepal, Jordan, and Morocco.  I could have enjoyed having such a guide myself as I've hiked these mountains.  I'm sure many people have benefitted from his expertise and are now more knowledgeable themselves about the world we live in.

At least we can pray for peace for the family he left behind: two sons, a wife, and two 80+-year-old parents.

1 comment:

  1. What a LOT of people! My goodness. It won't bring him back, but such amazing support has got to be at least a little comforting to his family and friends.


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