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Students studying abroad recall experiences during Paris attacks

Hannah Widener

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Walking around the Louvre museum Taylor Neuman, a junior majoring in telecommunication and film, could have never imagined she would get to see all the beauty Paris had to offer. It was her first day in Paris, and her friends in her Spain study abroad group all wanted to explore the city for the weekend. After getting dinner, Neuman and her friends got on the Metro train and noticed three officers getting on the train as well and telling everyone the next three stops were closed.

Stepping off the Metro and onto the streets, Neuman said she saw dozens of ambulances and police vehicles rushing by. When she reached her hotel, the lobby was flooded with people in all directions.

“People were sobbing watching TV and everything was in French, so I couldn’t understand what was happening,” Neuman said. “When I looked at the TV all I could see was the word ‘explosion.’”

On Nov. 13, 2015, Paris was attacked by terrorists, killing 129 people and leaving over 350 injured. Neuman’s hotel was just a 10 minute drive away from where the Bataclan theater attack occurred. Most of Neuman’s friends at the soccer game that night and the rest scattered around the city.

Nearly 5,000 miles away Neuman’s mother was in the car with her husband when she got the call from Neuman about the attacks. Once she had heard the words explosion and terrorists she said her heart sunk.

“I told her to be safe and asked where she was,” Mrs. Neuman said. “She told me she was safe in her hotel, but that some of her friends were still out there. I told her not to go out and to keep calling her friends. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so nervous after seeing the news, and I kept crying. I will be glad when she is out of Paris and back in Spain.”

As they were told to stay in their hotel rooms while they remained on lock down, Neuman and her friends watched as the death toll rose and rose. Everyone in her room asked “how could something like this happen?” while the sound of ambulances remained constant throughout the night.

Each of Neuman’s friends checked in safely as the night went on. One of her friends Jake Danford, a junior majoring in political science, was at the soccer game when he first heard the explosions.

“At about the 15 minute mark there was a sound like fireworks and same at the 19 minute mark,” Danford said. “We didn’t know what was happening so the game went on. My friends and I left about two minutes before the game ended and there was security everywhere. We got off at Bastille Metro Station, and there were police and army vehicles all around.”

Danford’s parents called him on the Metro to tell him the news while he checked in on his fellow students and made his way to the hotel as quickly as possible. Earlier that day Neuman said their advisors suggested they go to the Eagles of Death Metal concert, but luckily for Neuman and her group they decided it wasn’t the type of music they were into. Had Neuman gone to the concert or gone to any number of restaurants to enjoy some French cuisine, she said it could have been a life-altering decision.

This was a decision Nohemi Gonzalez, a Long Beach University study abroad student, made when she decided to go to a restaurant for the evening. At 23 years old she was killed in one of the many restaurant attacks that took place that night.

“Hearing that news makes my heart fall out of my chest,” Neuman said. “It could have been me, it could have been any of my friends. There are tons of restaurants in that central area that we were looking at. To know that that could have been us, that that’s a study abroad student enjoying her time to eat and she got killed. That is terrible news and it makes me sick to my stomach.”

The president of France, Francois Hollande, has declared these attacks by ISIS as an “act of war.” While France remains in a state of emergency, Neuman and her fellow study abroad students are trying to make their way back to Spain. Their flight out is scheduled in the morning. When asked if these attacks would have a lasting effect on Neuman she said it is something she will never forget.

“This is definitely going to be something I look back on and say I can’t believe I was there when this happened,” Neuman said. “I know that this is something that could have happened just as easily in the U.S. It’s something that is happening. Whether it’s a school shooting or a movie theater shooting, there is no difference between what happened here and what happens at home, except for which the severity of which it happens. These are acts of violence, and they need to stop.”

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Students studying abroad recall experiences during Paris attacks