For eight years now, the “The French Will Never Forget” Association reminds us of the friendly ties that unite both the French and the American people. Several projects have been organized since 2003, such as the event at Omaha Beach, where 2500 volunteers formed a gigantic human chain which took the shape of the words: “France will never forget”.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, the Association wishes to send a new and strong message of friendship, respect, gratitude and compassion from the French people to its American allies, with the installation of a special monument in front of the Chaillot Palace (facing the Eiffel Tower) as a tribute to the victims and their families.
Paul Bensabat, you are one of the four co-Presidents and co-founders of the Association “The French Will Never Forget”.
1/ What is its mission?
The Association “The French Will Never Forget” (TFWNF) was founded in 2003 due to the prevailing resentment a part of the American population held towards the French, following our country’s refusal to join them on the war in Iraq. A recurring leitmotiv in the many of the commentaries published by the American press, and of certain politicians, was that France did not remember what the United States did for her during both World Wars.
Determined to enhance French-American friendship, I have decided along with three other friends – Jean-Pierre Heim, Christian Millet and Patrick Du Tertre – to launch a series of actions that show the gratitude our Country holds for its oldest ally and for its decisive aid it gave us in the former century.
The first event took place on the occasion of the 4th of July, 2003: “The French Will Never Forget” took the initiative to fill the 11 cemeteries of American soldiers who fell in the World Wars with flowers, by decorating each of the 60,511 sepultures with a red rose. The Association came about to convince and to raise the necessary funds for such a grand project.
Thanks to this first success, the Association was able to multiply its symbolic actions. As a reminder, I will only mention a few: in 2003 it played an active and important role in collecting the funds which allowed sending 100 WWII veterans from the United States to Normandy, where they received the Legion of Honor from the French President’s hands.
In 2005, “The French Will Never Forget” organized and financed the voyage and accommodations of veterans who liberated the Eiffel Tower. Two of them received the Legion of Honor from the hands of Ms Alliot-Marie.
On July 4th, 2007 it again organized the gigantic 2500-human-volunteer-formed logo “FRANCE WILL NEVER FORET” on the sands of Omaha Beach. A wonderful film of this operation can be seen on Youtube.
In 2008, “The French Will Never Forget” continued to participate in hand-outs of the Legion of Honor in the United States, and organized several film screenings of “Omaha Beach 2007” for Patriotic and for Veteran organizations. Participants in all these screenings were given a DVD of the film.
2/ We wanted to interview you today since you are preparing a very important project for the coming September. Can you please give us more details?
This year, the Association intends to put up a large-scale project again, in honor of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, and, by doing so, to resend our message of friendship, respect, gratitude and compassion from the French people to its American allies.
The idea consists of setting up – on September 11, 2011 – a visual reproduction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center right in front of the Chaillot Palace, by showing a scaffolding covered on all four sides in white; each tower will be about 24 meters tall (roughly the height of a 9 story building) and 4 meters large on the sides.
On the white covers of the first tower, the names of the victims of 9/11 will be written. On the second tower will be shown the thousands of signatures and messages by people who will have liked to contribute and to associate themselves to the event during the weeks preceding it.
The Eiffel Tower, centered in perspective between the two towers, will associate our Nation in a very strong and symbolic fashion to the American pain. The message of sympathy and of friendship will clearly be made.
Finally, a big French flag and a big American one will be put up the roof of the Chaillot Palace. Right before the official commemoration, several children will solemnly march from the Place Militaire to the Trocadero, holding the two largest French and American flags ever designed in the world (18m x 9m) (which our Association possesses since it is we who have made them for the 2007 human-chain in Omaha Beach).
We thus wish to transmit a double message: “that we haven’t forgotten the drama experienced by the United States exactly ten years ago, nor have we forgotten the sacrifices made by it during World War II in helping us regaining our freedom”. This is also our Association’s name and the initial message our Association wants to send since it was created in 2003.
On September 2001 we were all Americans. But during the months and years that followed, the French-American relations underwent many difficulties. Without passing a judgment on that period, I would however like to know what your feelings are as French residing on this side of the Atlantic, especially towards the following question: do you think the French really understand how the United States in general and New Yorkers in particular were so profoundly touched by their individual and collective existence on that day?
Our compatriots living in France and in the rest of the world were very sensitive to the American people’s suffering. But can we blame them for it: they certainly did not feel it with the same intensity the inhabitants of New York, Washington and all the US did.
3/ Ten years have passed. Ground Zero is rising again from its ashes. Why do you think now is the time to bring up this message of French-American friendship?
Because it is highly important that we never forget. Because it is as important that we denounce terrorism and barbarity.
Finally, because we are on our American friends’ side just as they were on ours when we needed them. On the coming September 11, we will be sharing their collective grief, and show our compassion to the families of the victims and those who were close to them.
4/ How can we contribute to this project? How can anyone who wants to help do so? Who should we contact?
There are two ways in particular:
by sending messages of sympathy that will be reproduced and shown on the second tower;
by making a donation that will help finance the project, which costs a few hundred thousands of dollars.
We are talking about a visual and symbolic project. There will thus be no such thing as a small contribution. All messages and donations will be of help to carrying it out.
We have a Facebook page (TheFrenchWillNeverForget) on which you will find a lot of insightful information, enabling you – as of now – to send a message that will be printed on the tower.
Concerning donations (of which we are in dire need in order to fulfill this project), you may send a check to:
The French Will Never Forget, 101 Park Avenue, Hoboken, NJ 07030.
I would like to mention that these donations are tax-deductible!
5/ During the weeks following September 11, all the walls in the area of Ground Zero were covered with paintings and messages of children expressing their compassion to the victims’ families. Your project follows the same line of remembrance, but also that of pedagogy. What can we say today to the younger generations about this tragic day?
This youth has grown up with the spirit of these images of terrible violence, of images that leave their mark on a whole generation, at least. If we are talking about fighting terrorism, we shall also be mentioning tolerance among communities and between people to these young generations, and to tell them they will have to all grow up together.
And, as we had already done with their parents in 2001, let us try and give the following words a meaning: big and small, we will all be Americans again on the upcoming date of September 11.
Co-présidents et fondateurs TFWNF : Paul BENSABAT, firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick DU TERTRE, email@example.com
Jean Pierre HEIM, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christian MILLET, email@example.com
Coordination de l’événement : Rod KUKURUDZ - firstname.lastname@example.org
Source : Consulat général de France à Boston