Heather Heaton

Documentary Photographer

Je Suis Charlie

It was cold and raining when I arrived at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland Oregon USA for the Charlie Hebdo Memorial. I walked down the earthen-colored brick steps into the middle of the square. It was lit in some areas. Sometimes the lighting was helpful as it reflected off from the rain drenched bricks, while at other times it got into the way of shooting ... typical for documentary photography.

The peaceful crowd of approximately 250 people began gathering along the steps. A child slept in his stroller that was pinned with a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign. A boy held up another ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign while teetering on the shoulders of his father, and adults both young and old held candles, pencils, French flags, and various signs like ‘Fraternity with Muslims’ and liberté. One man was steadfast in his actions. He held his French flag the entire evening, rarely moving, talking or smiling. He stared ahead perhaps in his own world of recollection. Throughout the memorial, the mood was complex with an air of somberness, friendliness, and French pride with feelings that extended from defending freedom of expression to sorrow for those murdered in cold blood and empathy for Muslims. This memorial only lasted a little more than an hour, but to me the event felt like a decisive moment had taken place.