A series of coordinated terrorist attacks rocked Paris Friday night, killing 132 and injuring 350 others in what French President Francois Hollande called an “act of war.” According to CNN, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has claimed responsibility for eight militants who attacked at least six sites across the French capital. In the wake of these attacks, all USC students studying abroad in Paris have been accounted for, according to exchange coordinators for the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Marshall School of Business programs.
John Zamora, a senior studying international relations, was having dinner by the Canal St. Martin with several other USC students when the attacks began. At the time, Zamora thought that he heard noises “that sounded like shots,” but recalls dismissing them for something else. Zamora only found out about the attacks later, when the lounge he was in turned on the French news and the concerned calls from family and friends started pouring in.
“At first I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation,” Zamora said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “I had many friends and family checking up on me, but I oddly felt fine and not directly in danger. While I feel many other Parisians feel this way, I do feel like people have felt an attack on their culture and way of living.”
Jeremy Serafin, a senior studying business administration, was traveling to Bordeaux, a city about five hours away from Paris, with three other USC students when he heard about the attacks from Facebook posts warning students to stay away from the area.
“Many of the students, including myself, are in a state of shock,” Serafin said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “Although our campus is an hour by metro from the city center, many students commute from Paris and visit the city regularly. More than anything, many students are keeping the victims in mind and praying for their loved ones as well.”
Zamora, who lives about five miles from the city center in Neuilly-sur-Seine, said that the atmosphere in the capital is tense.
“While you can still see people out and cars driving past, it’s noticeably less busy than it regularly was,” Zamora said. “The government has asked people to stay indoors as much as possible and people are still mourning — listening to the news to hear the latest updates and for how France will respond. The metro is still running and people have gone to the attack areas to pay tribute to those that lost their lives.”
According to Zamora, USC took measures to ensure that the students studying abroad were all safe and accounted for, and that classes would be held regularly starting Monday morning. However, though the events in Paris may not affect his study abroad semester logistically, Zamora said that he can already feel a change.
“The classes were half of the experience but the other half was meeting the people, exploring the hidden streets and living the culture of Paris — a culture in which the simple enjoyment of life is a central tenet,” Zamora said. “Right now there are a lot of people scared, hurting and angry. It will take some time and more answers for Paris to regain this ‘joie de vivre.’”
Serafin said that though he has not altered his study abroad plans as a result of these events, there have been several logistical changes, such as heightened security on his campus. However, the greatest change has been personal.
“The biggest impact will be a greater appreciation for family and friends,” Serafin said. “All of these devastations around the world are reminders to be more loving and to not take anything for granted. That being said … these attacks have not changed my view of such a beautiful city.”
Zamora said that, due to the politically charged nature of recent events such as the European refugee crisis, the impact of the attacks extends beyond the lives that have been lost.
“The entire world was watching that Friday night, and many people felt confused,” Zamora said. “The Charlie Hebdo shooting 10 months ago already increased the high level of [Islamophobia] in France, and I worry for [Muslims] here who have had no relation to these attacks but will suffer from misplaced prejudice and hatred because of them. I also worry for the refugees and migrants who are just trying to seek a better life for themselves but are intentionally not given this opportunity. I fear it will get worse for both.”