A series of terrorist attacks occurred in Paris, France last Friday, Nov. 13, killing at least 132 people and wounding at least 352 more. In response to the attacks, France declared a state of emergency and its borders were temporarily closed. The day before, in Beirut, Lebanon, 49 people were killed in a related series of bombings. Terrorist organization ISIS claimed responsibility for both attacks.
As the world mourns for the loss of lives in Paris and Beirut, UCI students and faculty with personal connections to the cities shared their own experiences as news broke of the attacks last Friday.
Nicole Block is a third-year literary journalism and art history major at UCI currently studying abroad in Paris for the fall 2015 quarter.
She was in the city during the Nov. 13 attacks, but was unharmed. The following is her recollection of last Friday night when the attacks began:
“On Friday night while I was sitting at home, my phone buzzed with an alert email: not all that unusual due to the workers’ protests and traffic disruptions that occur often in Paris. However, this email was an emergency alert regarding a shooting and an explosion. Not long after I had opened the email, my mom started texting me. It was already on the news back in the U.S. On three different electronic devices, I was looking at the news updates and receiving massive amounts of texts and calls and messages on different mediums, and it was then that I started realizing the gravity of the situation.
In my little room on the other side of the city from the events of that night, Friday November 13, I watched the live news stream and kept in contact with my friends and family back at home and here in Paris, unable to believe it was real. While I felt safe with my curtains drawn in the United States house of an international student residence, there was a panic gripping the whole city because there were so many unknowns about the situation as it was still developing.
One by one, my friends in Paris were checking in as “safe” on Facebook and updating their statuses, some having just returned from the soccer stadium where explosions occurred, some having left a bar in the tenth arrondissement where the shootings took place, some stuck somewhere across town waiting for the situation to calm down, and some in their apartments only a few blocks from the theater where the hostage situation was.
With everything quiet in my building and my part of the city I didn’t feel endangered, but I realized how close some of my friends were to danger, and how easily that could have been any of us. That’s still the resounding thought in all of our minds here. We were lucky to not have been in harm’s way that night, but it was a matter of coincidence with the randomness of the acts.
I cannot make claim to the horror and the pain that I know many others are feeling at this time, and I can’t pretend that my experience of that night was anywhere nearly as bad or significant as others, but it was a night to remember and certainly one that has affected Paris. It can be felt that Paris is in mourning, with everyone brushed by the attacks either by knowing someone involved or someone with an “almost” story, and it’s somber on the streets as we all struggle to find the appropriate response to the tragedy here.”
Irandokht Dina Moinzadeh is a current lecturer in UCI’s French department, and a Paris native. The following is an excerpt from an email she sent her French students over the weekend following the attacks, on behalf of all French language lecturers at UCI:
By now you must have all heard of what happened in Paris, and you probably remember that it is my hometown.
As this is hitting home too closely, I am not sure if I will be able to talk about it in class, so I decided to write you instead.
Starting with the good news: all French lecturers at UCI had at least one relative in Paris yesterday, and it is with great relief that I can say that they are all alive.
Three of us come from Paris, including me, so we spent the whole day (and some of the night) trying to check that none of our friends has been harmed or killed. We stayed up late until we heard of every single one of them. Needless to say, it was a harrowing day.
The targeted areas were areas where I and most of my friends spend much time. We have seen concerts in the Bataclan. One of my friends was there only a few days ago. So it could have happened to me, and it’s a miracle no one I know was harmed.
There have been terrorist attacks before in Paris, but never to that scale. It is difficult to convey the shock and grief that we are going through. People are saying that this is our 9/11, and they are right.
A Lebanese friend of mine almost lost her cousins to the attacks in Beyrouth that happened the day before, made by the same people.
After what happened in the city I grew up in, I cannot imagine living something like this more than once in a lifetime. And I am not sure how one is supposed to process the senseless random killing of innocent people.
So please keep Paris in your thoughts and prayers, as well as all victims of terrorism around the world.”
Students affected by the violence in Paris and Beirut over the weekend can visit UCI’s Counseling Center for support. The center is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.