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Exclusive: firsthand account of Paris attacks

BY JULIANA VERHAGE & JONATHAN SOCH | STAFF WRITERS

Emma Bennett, PLNU Sophomore global business and nonprofit manage- ment major, is currently studying abroad in Paris, France. Bennett was at the soccer stadium where suicide bombings occurred on Friday, November 13 when Paris came under attack by terrorists with suspected ties to ISIS.

In an interview with her, she dis- cussed what happened to her that night, her thoughts on the attack, and Paris’s response since.

The Point: At the soccer game, did you hear the bombs go off? What did you think was happening?

Bennett: Yes, we heard the two go off about 5 minutes apart during the beginning of the game. The noise was loud and startling, but we didn’t really think anything of it. We figured it was fireworks or a cannon of some sort. We did notice that the timing was off, because the soccer players even seemed surprised and slowed down their play. But we really had no idea how serious it was.

The Point: Can you describe how the attack began?

Bennett: I wasn’t sure where at the stadium that it was, but I actually found out that one of the explosions happened right in the spot that we entered through, like, thirty minutes before they blew up.

The Point: Did the game carry on? Was there a big disturbance in the crowd because of the bombs? At what point did you find out what was really going on?

Bennett: The French President was attending the game and was evacuated as soon as the attack took place, everyone else didn’t know what had happened until the final 10 minutes.

It’s actually really good that the crowd didn’t try leaving, because apparently the plan of the bombers was to cause a disturbance by the first bomb, have the crowd run out of the stadium, then set off the second bomb in an attempt to kill more people. Once the game was over though, there were stampedes of people trying to either get out of the stadium or flocking to the center of the field.

I only knew about it because we received a message from a friend saying a restaurant near him was under at- tack, but even at that point we thought it was a joke. It wasn’t until my dad heard the news and texted me asking where I was that I knew something was wrong. I left my seat and called my

mom a few moments later to tell her I was okay, and she told me at that time 18 people were dead. That’s when it really hit me that the city was under attack. I immediately started crying.

The Point: Can you describe what happened when you left the game and tried to get home?

Bennett: I was outside the stadium for about an hour trying to figure out what to do. All the taxis I saw were all taken, and I couldn’t find any of my friends. I decided to get on the metro and made it to Gare du Nord. I found my friend Becca and our friend’s dad picked us up.

It took 3 hours from after the game to get home but I was so happy when we made it back to our area. None of the attacks occurred near our quiet residential neighborhood; I live in the 17th arrondissement (district) which is about 30 minutes from the stadium.

The Point: Was anyone you’ve met while studying in Paris hurt, killed, or at any of the other attack cites?

Bennett: No, and I’m so thankful. Where the attacks occurred is an area where my friends and I regularly go to, we know that if we wouldn’t have gone to the game we would’ve been in this area that night. But, one of my friends was near the Bataclan concert hall walking down the street, and two men on a motorcycle stop at the end. He told me that there was a couple in front of him, and he saw the two men at the end of the street raise a gun and begin shooting at them. He grabbed the couple and told them to run, and they hid behind a car. He ran for his life and made it out okay.

The Point: How has the mood of the city changed?

Bennett: I live in the 17th (arrondissement), which is pretty far from where these attacks happened.

So in my area the next day everything was kind of open, you could tell everyone was a little tense, but nothing was really weird, but my friends who lived in the 10th and 11th, nothing was open, you could hear a pin drop outside they said, it was just so quiet.

After like two or three days people started coming out more, things started opening up.

The Point: What good do you hope comes from this tragedy? What good have you already seen come from it?

Bennett: At the memorial site the other day, a friend and I drew a chalk drawing “United States stands with France” on the sidewalk. We had an elderly women come up and thank us profusely. Another man came up later and took a little piece of chalk and wrote “Merci” underneath it. He thanked us and we all hugged and cried. It was such a small moment that made a world of difference to us. Everyone’s really come together during this time of need and it’s been really nice to see a sense of community in such a big city.

The Point: Has your study abroad program been affected?

Bennett: From our school and Paris this year, there’s like 30 kids total that went home to whatever country they were from. So it’s kind of been a big impact and we’re kind of missing some people, but you know, overall I would say we’ve all gotten really close from it too.

The Point: Any final thoughts you’d like to share on the subject?

Bennett: One of my main thoughts and concerns is how people are generalizing the entire Muslim population for this. It’s important for everyone to remember that terrorism has no religion, and to not blame a sea of people for the horrible acts of a few extremists.

I think we also all need to be aware of the other situations that are occur- ring around the world. Paris is get- ting a lot of attention, but we’re not the only people experiencing disaster. Sending prayers to Paris is great, but pray for the whole world too.

Lastly I want to remind the people who you care about how much you love them. I’m sure no one left their house that night for a concert or dinner thinking they may not see friends or family ever again. Be grateful for the people in your life, and send all the prayers you can to the victims and their families.

 

 

 

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Jonathan Soch

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