Students in Paris discuss Friday attacks, aftermath

Andrew Henderson

Eight WKU students who were in Paris at the time of terrorist attacks on Nov. 13 are safe and accounted for, according to a press release from WKU News. 

Five WKU students who are studying at Harlaxton College were in Paris for the weekend and three students teaching in Barcelona were also in Paris at the time, according to the press release. 

Additionally, there were also two students studying in the southern part of France who are confirmed safe, Katherine Hale, Study Abroad and Global Learning interim assistant director said. 

Three teams of terrorists staged attacks at six locations throughout Paris late Friday, Nov. 13, including Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France and at least two restaurants. At least 129 people people were killed and 352 wounded in the attacks, according to CNN. 

Hale said once they confirmed all students studying in France or were in Paris at that time were safe, they contacted all WKU students in Europe to confirm their safety as well. 

She said Study Abroad and Global Learning does not have a set policy to follow in the event of dangerous situations such as this.

“Usually when any kind of event erupts abroad, like an earthquake or a security issues like a terrorist attack such as in France, our standard procedure is to try and reach out and contact the study to make sure they’re safe,” Hale said. “And if they don’t respond we generally coordinate with the coordinator of their program.” 

Louisville sophomore Carolyn Crowe was one of the students studying at Harlaxton who was in Paris during the attacks. She said she and two of her other friends from WKU were staying at Hotel du Plat d’Etain at the time of the attacks, which was a few minutes away from Bataclan concert hall. 

Crowe recalled her initial reaction to the attacks as being met with confusion. She said she was about to fall asleep and then heard sirens outside. She said her friend checked her phone and told them what had happened and began checking the news.

“We were shocked and had no idea what to do,” Crowe said via Facebook interview. “We followed what was happening on the news, and then messages just kept pouring in on my phone asking if I was ok.” 

Crowe said she didn’t think something of this nature would happen so close to her and her friends. She said they were initially worried about being pick-pocketed, but never imagined something such as these attacks happening. 

She said Harlaxton staff remained in contact with the students during the attack, and had done a good job of helping them out. One of the ways they maintained contact was through their Harlaxton Facebook group.

Hale said she expects questions to arise in the future from students regarding security when going abroad, but said these are questions that have continued to pop up over the past few years. 

“I imagine that we will get more questions from students asking about safety and whether the locations they’re going to are safe, what safety measures are put in place, how they’re going to be prepared, so yes we do anticipate questions about that in the future,” she said. 

Hale said students who are going abroad receive a pre-departure orientation to give them tips for keeping safe and ways to prepare for security issues. She said they also receive a program-specific orientation to help prepare them for their particular location.

She also said a majority of students studying abroad do so on faculty-led programs, and that faculty are required to put together an emergency action plan.

“All faculty leaders are required to put together an emergency action plan thinking through different scenarios, and so they share with the students what they need to do if they get in a situation where they’re separated from the group or an incident happens,” she said. 

Louisville sophomore Natalie Webb was also a student studying at Harlaxton who was in Paris at the time. 

Webb said she and some friends had been out eating about 15 minutes from the concert hall when the attacks first started, and they had no knowledge of the attacks as they took the metro back. She said once she and her friend returned to their flat, the metro closed roughly two minutes later. 

She recalled being met with shock and terror once she was informed of what was happening. 

“We honestly didn’t know when or where it was happening or if any of our friends were safe,” Webb said via Facebook interview. “We watched the news for hours trying to get a grasp of the situation. It was mayhem.” 

She agreed with Crowe and said Harlaxton staff were quick to respond and confirm the safety of students. She said it provided her with comfort to know someone was aware of her location and working to get them out of Paris safely. 

Webb said the day after the attack Paris felt different, and noted less people on the streets. 

“People are more on edge,” Webb said. “They’re trying to go on about their daily lives without being effected but it’s obviously a scary time.” 

Crowe also said she felt a change in the city as well. She said people were still going to work and following their usual routine, but the atmosphere did feel different. 

“Everyone was hurrying to get where they were going and there was a solemn tone today,” Crowe said.  

Crowe said the students in Paris returned to Harlaxton on Sunday. Her and Webb both said their perspectives about going abroad had changed since this, but won’t stop them from their continued travels. 

“This has been one of the biggest eye openers while studying abroad. My perspectives have changed some, but I still love studying abroad and wouldn’t change being here,” Crowe said. 

Webb agreed saying the attacks in Paris made her aware to the evils of the world. 

“It’s changed my view of the world. I feel as though someone woke me up to the fact that such horrible things actually exist and that attacks like that can happen anywhere,” Webb said. “I may be more cautious in the future but I won’t let it stop me from living.”