An American In Paris: Her First Day In The City Of Light Came On November 13

By Taylor Neuman

When planning for a weekend excursion to Paris you expect nothing less but sight-seeing, eating delicious French cuisine, touring the finest art museums, going out and enjoying everything the City of Light has to offer; but this wasn’t the case for me.

On Friday, Nov. 13 I traveled to Paris for an amazing weekend with my study abroad program.

When we got there we immediately ate at this tiny little French café a little ways from our hotel, walked around a bit to get a feel of the area we were in and then came back to get ready for our tour of the Louvre.

We took a big bus to the Louvre. It was absolutely amazing just like everyone had told me, and I was incredibly excited to finally see the Mona Lisa in person.

After about an hour and a half tour, we were all ready to get dinner around the area. Some of us talked about what each other had planned for the night.

Some planned on going to the Germany vs. France game, some planned on seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night and some planned on going out and enjoying the nightlife.

A group of my friends and I decided to go to this really tasty crepe place pretty close to the Louvre for dinner, we had planned to meet some friends afterwards at the Eiffel Tower but instead we decided to head back to the hotel and see the Eiffel Tower the next day.

Since we were pretty far from our hotel we decided to take the metro back to our destination.

After waiting for sometime for everyone to get their metro passes we waited patiently for the train to come. Then we hopped on and sat around talking about how excited we were for the night ahead.

 I never thought I would experience Paris this way, the weather was cold and gray and you could feel the sadness that swept throughout the city that day.

After one stop we realized that three police officers had jumped onto the metro.

Over the intercom they started saying something in French, none of us know French so we disregarded it and continued to enjoy ourselves as usual, agreeing that we would just get off the next stop open. When we got off we still had a 15 minute walk back to our hotel. We walked and walked and finally we started to notice police and ambulances flying by one by one, it seemed like it was never going to stop.

We just figured it had something to do with the soccer game, or maybe a bad car accident, we never thought anything more than that. We continued on our path with nothing more than our plans for the night in mind.

People walk in Paris during a winter night. Photo Credit: August Brill/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

People walk in Paris during a winter night in 2012. Photo Credit: August Brill/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

We finally arrived to the hotel to find our lobby flooded with people on their phones, crying and watching television.

Immediately I knew something was wrong, I looked at the TV and it was all in French but the only word I could make out was “explosion.”

All of a sudden my heart felt like it was going to fall out of my chest; I didn’t even know how to react. I asked someone what had happened, and they said “terrorist attack,” and what was even worse was that it was only 5-10 minutes away from our hotel, and where we had walked around earlier that day.

The first thing I thought of was calling my parents to tell them what had happened because they didn’t know.

I told them I was safe and that everything was going to be ok, but they immediately panicked.

My friends and I felt so unsafe so we hid ourselves in our hotel room for the rest of the night watching TV and not knowing how to respond to the situation. We didn’t know if we were going to be the next victims, all we saw was the number of deaths and injuries keep rising and we knew it was getting really bad.

All we wanted to know is if all of our friends that went to the soccer game, out to eat, and to the Eiffel Tower were okay. We all fell asleep after finding out everyone from our program made it back to the hotel safe but the feeling of uncertainty still hung over our heads.

The next morning I woke up to the television on and all I could see was 129 dead. I almost threw up.

All of our organized trips were canceled and the president issued a state of emergency so it was almost impossible to go out and see the city. It hit 3 o’clock and all of us were in a state of shock, our group advisors had told us they only wanted us to go in small groups across the street to grab food.

We were eventually allowed to go around sight-seeing but we weren’t allowed to go on public transportation or in big groups so we went to the Eiffel Tower. Security was extremely tight everywhere and there was an overwhelming amount of military personnel and police guarding the streets.

I never thought I would experience Paris this way, the weather was cold and gray and you could feel the sadness that swept throughout the city that day.

We went to go visit the sites where the terrorist attacks occurred and it was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do.

Hundreds of people flooded the streets holding flowers in their hands, tears running down their faces, and lighting candles to remember the victims.

It was something I had never experienced before, a feeling I will never forget.

Taylor Neuman is a writer for Rise News. She is also a student at the University of Alabama who is studying abroad in Europe this semester. 

Cover Photo Credit: Cristian Bortes/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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