The people in Paris witnessed a horrific attack last Friday night, with violence at several different points throughout the city. The attacks left 129 people dead in Paris alone, with over hundreds wounded. The attack was only the most recent in the wake of violence that has occurred throughout the week, starting with large-scale bombings in both Lebanon and Turkey, and ending in Paris.
“However, the attacks in Paris are not the only events that should be acknowledged,” said Caitlyn Wilson, ’17, a current Lehigh student studying abroad. “Only days before the Paris attack, suicide bombings occurred in Beirut, and a bomb was set off at a funeral in Baghdad. These occurrences did not receive the same attention from the press as the Paris attacks. I credit our elevated response to the Paris attacks on the possibility that Americans may largely find it easier to relate to those in Paris, as it is a common travel destination for many.”
I reached out to two fellow students — Abby Johnson and Caitlyn Wilson — who are currently abroad in London and Paris, respectively, to discover their thoughts and feelings on an attack so close to them in proximity. Both are, thankfully, safe and were relatively far away when the violence took place.
“I was, luckily, in my apartment for most of the incident on Friday night, which is a few neighborhoods over from where it was happening,” Johnson said. “I was on the metro when it started and I saw policemen running across the platforms, but I didn’t know why until I got home and there was a message from my mom asking if I was OK.
“I stayed inside for the past two days just to be safe. I’ve never been so close to an attack like this, so even though I wasn’t actually there, my vicinity to it is very creepy and scary. Especially because I usually go out at night and it could’ve easily been me.”
Wilson said she was in Scotland at the time, but was shaken because she had only been in Paris a few weeks prior.
“I was initially even scared to go back to my home in the center of London, as when any major terrorism threat occurs, there is always the fear that more will soon follow,” she said.
Thankfully, no major bombings in any major cities around the globe have transpired since then, and Lehigh has reported that all current faculty, students, and staff abroad are unharmed and safe. When contacted, Johnson shared that she was venturing outside for the first time in two days.
“As far as the aftermath, it’s definitely more terrifying now,” she said. “Especially because ISIS came out and said this was ‘just the beginning.’ So now I think everyone is more anxious and nervous. As for me, I woke up Saturday morning and I was in a completely different city.
“You can feel how different it is. It’s like the attack puts a dark shadow over all of Paris cause now it’s always in the back of your mind. So the rest of my trip abroad will be entirely different than the first two and a half months.”
When asked about how she’s coping, Wilson said that she tried to keep the fear away.
“As I thought about it more though, I realized that being scared is exactly what the terrorists want to happen. You can’t fight terrorism with fear,” she said. “I returned to London on Sunday with the confidence that we’re all in this together, and that evil will never truly win out. I pray for Paris, and especially those who lost loved ones in the attack. Thank you to all of my friends and family who double checked that I was not in Paris that weekend, and who prayed for my friends who were.”
Johnson replied as well in the same vein, saying she has been reached out to by many friends and family. She said she feels guilty for accepting sympathy, as nothing happened to her personally, but the feeling of compassion and concern are reassuring.
As one Lehigh student to another, please stay safe. Though we as a student body are not with you across the ocean right now, we are with you in spirit. My heart aches from the aftermath of these attacks for all of those affected, and my prayers and condolences are with every family and individual suffering at this time.