Traffic and familiar hustle-and-bustle returns to normal in Paris, although national mourning continues for the victims of several targeted terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.
Lauren Smith, a Florida Southern College student studting at Regents University in London, booked a trip to Paris for the weekend of Nov. 13, before she left the U.S.
Smith was walking the Paris streets with her group when six sites across Paris were targeted by terrorists, including the national stadium, a crowded concert hall and several restaurants.
On Nov. 14, French Police said they believed three well-organized teams of assailants carried out the attacks with automatic weapons and explosive devices. According to NPR, The Islamic State released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, and French president Francois Hollande called the attacks “an act of war.”
Nov. 18, two Air France flights headed for Paris were diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Salt Lake City, following bomb threats, officials say. It is unknown whether the same individual called in the two threats.
Smith never imagined facing a situation like this abroad.
“When we heard the first bomb, we had no idea what was going on. At first we thought it was fireworks or cannons from the nearby sports game, but then emergency vehicles with their sirens blazing whizzed all around us towards the stadium and we knew immediately something was wrong,” Smith said.
Smith returned with her group to her hotel and once she discovered what was really happening and the severity of the situation, she was shocked.
“Eight of us were packed into one small hotel room and crowded around the TV with the news on until 3 a.m.,” Smith said. “The situation kept getting worse and worse and we had no idea how to react. We felt safe inside the hotel, but we knew people were dying outside and it was heartbreaking knowing there was nothing we could do.”
Smith said that her group was strongly advised by the French government to stay indoors. She remained in her room for over 24 hours straight.
“When our tour guide managed to get us earlier train tickets back to London, we had to walk to the train station and you could definitely tell the atmosphere had changed. Everyone was quiet and despair and loss hung thick in the air. The train station was crawling with military men with large guns and watched our every move,” Smith said.
According to Smith, Paris had become completely different from the warm welcome she received when she first arrived.
Before the attacks, she spent the day at the Eiffel Tower, taking a tour coach tour of the city’s major areas, exploring the Christmas markets and visiting the Louvre.
After the attacks, Smith said that she got multiple messages from family and friends asking about her safety. She used Facebook’s ‘Safety Check,’ allows people in the area of any dangers, such as a terrorist attack or earthquake, to mark themselves okay and give their loved ones some peace of mind.
“I really liked that I was able to let everyone know I was safe, Smith said. “My phone blew up all night with friends and family concerned for my safety, so with that option I was able to let everyone on my facebook know that I was okay and in a safe place.”
Smith was able to return to London a day after the attacks. She said that while she feels a little more cautious, the Paris incident is not going to stop any of her European travels.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Smith