Giuseppe Caliceti is a primary school teacher in Reggio Emilia, Italy. On Monday, the Italian government asked all classrooms to observe a minute of silence and to talk about the Paris attacks. This piece is the result of Caliceti’s classroom conversation. The children’s answers are not edited.
By chance, have any of you have seen on TV what happened in Paris last weekend?
“I did! I watched the Germany-France match. On TV. On Sky. There were fights. But it was a bomb. It came from a band called ISI. They killed some fans. None of the players, because they were in the locker room.” “Me, too. I saw that at the end of the game, the fans, instead of going home, were standing on the field and they were afraid to go out of the stadium. But I did not understand why.” “I saw on TV images on a channel in front of a shop there was broken glass.” “I thought they were not really dead. Because sometimes on TV there are many films with the dead. But my mom told me that they are not really dead, they use tomato sauce to pretend they are really dead, but they are not. But my mom said that these were real.” “But were they really true? Not even I thought they were truly dead.” “My dad told me that what’s on TV is all fake except what they show on the news, that is true. For that, he never lets me watch the news not even ‘Striscia la Notizia.’ But I also watched the game and I saw that they remained there on the field, the spectators, because they had been locked in. Some hugged, cried and wanted to get out.” “But no, they did not want to come out because if they came, they feared to be killed by thieves with machine guns and pistols.”
Any more of you who have seen the TV images of Paris and want to talk about it?
“They put candles and roses and flowers on the sidewalk, for those who were killed.” “I’ve heard on TV that after the attack, the leatherhead squads came, they are like special police and they freed the prisoners and killed the enemies.” “I have heard and my mom told me that Friday night there were three invaded places and Saturday morning six places invaded. In Paris, which is the capital of France.” “I also have seen images of Paris but I’m not going to talk about it because I did not understand and I did not even liked them.” “I saw a guy who was jumping off a building.” “Yesterday I went to my sister’s volleyball game, here at the Calerno gym. They, the players, the players of both teams, they held a minute of silence to remember the dead of Paris.” “At mass, that is, in catechism, we also held a minute of silence, but we were quiet for a long time, always to remember those who died in Paris, we said a prayer, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Amen.” “We said the Lord’s Prayer.” “But I saw Saturday morning or afternoon that France went to those of the ISI, with guns and machine guns and bombs, they went into a theater and killed people and then they dragged out those wounded and the dead.”
In our class there are also children who come from Morocco, Tunisia, India … They have not spoken. Have they not seen anything on TV? Didn’t their parents say anything?
“No, I have not seen this on TV, only the cartoons.” “Me neither.” “My mom and dad did not tell me anything because then, they do not tell me the grownup things, because I’m still a little young…” “No, my parents do not let me watch certain things on TV.”
Who are these people who killed other people? Did you hear? Do you understand why they did this terrible thing of killing other people?
“Not me, I did not understand. I just realized that they were very bad because they wanted to kill everyone, even children.” “I think they have killed because we believe in a religion, they believe in another.” “But one who believes in a different religion should kill others, Giuseppe? Can they kill them?” “They killed because they are a gang of assassins called ISIS.” “I do not know who they were, I did not look.” “Me neither.” “Maybe they killed because they wanted money.” “Because there is a murderer.” “For me, they wanted to kill them all because they want to rule the world, that is, to control and do what they want.” “They killed because I think they want to invade the big cities, because they want to take things and also take a lot of money. Like if you kill everyone in the bank, after you take all the money in the bank.” “For me, they wanted to kill us because in Paris there were many young people at the concert and they wanted to kill the young.”
But who is the gang of ISIS?
“It’s the gang of France.” “They were the homeless, for me. They did not know what to do and they had nothing to eat. Then they got tired of always doing alms, because no one gave them any money and they did not know what to eat. Then they got tired of waiting for alms and took their rifles and started shooting like crazy, they started to kill everybody, because then the world is also full of crazy people, my father always tells me so.” “They were criminals, those, but I do not know where they came from, like from other countries, from New York, for example.” “No, they were from Syria, which is a country far away.” “Yesterday I saw on TV something that I did not understand: that there were so many cars with men with overalls and guns, and I did not understand anything.” “For me, they are thieves who want to steal everything. Then they also took from the people and held them captive.” “I realized that the war broke out and I hope that does not break out here too because I do not like it.”
But why do you think wars break out?
“Revenge.” “Here’s an example: There are two who want something, like a ball. Then they all want it but there is a single ball. Then they bicker about that, because no one wants to stay without the ball.” “For me, wars begin because there are guns and bombs. Otherwise you could not go to war or were to pretend.” “I think a war is caused by envy, because they all want to be more beautiful. Or more beautiful or richer.” “Also in my opinion, because they want the money.” “Or there are two wishing to order everybody and nobody wants to obey. Everyone wants to be right. Then they bicker.” “War is the bickering of grownups. But it is more dangerous because guns are not fake, not toys, not guns with water inside, they are real, like those of hunters, that really kill. Except in movies when they pretend to die.” “I saw on TV that they lit candles on a road like a cemetery.” “I also saw it, then they also put flowers for the dead.”
But who are those who died? Did you hear?
“I did. They were French because Paris is in France.” “Teacher, but Rome is closer or farther away than Paris?”
Why, are you afraid they will come to shoot here?
“I do! Very! I’m very scared!” “They killed women and men.” “I saw that they were young.” “But the French players and the other team no one died because they were hiding inside the locker rooms, underground.” “I saw a Venice girl who died, she was beautiful. She was there to study. In fact, she went to see a rock concert.”
What feelings did you feel while watching TV?
“I felt a little bad because I thought if maybe tomorrow it happens to us … Basically, I was afraid.” “I once went to Paris on holiday with my family, but fortunately there was no war.” “I felt a bit sad, but not so much because I changed the channel immediately and watched cartoons, because I like them more.” “I am not interested on these things because they are grownup stuff.” “I felt sorry for the game. Because once I also went to the stadium with my dad but later wanted to return home immediately.”