by KATIE SCHULE '18
Friday the 13th. No one expects the horror stories to come true. In Paris on November 13, 2015, they did.
On this Friday evening, a series of terrorist attacks were carried out by ISIS in the form of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and the taking of hostages. There were a total of 368 victims, 130 that were killed by the 7 terrorists. The violence and horror began in the late hours of the night and didn’t end until early morning.
What the world woke up to on Saturday morning was shocking. It has been the largest attack on France since World War II.
Leaders were quick to respond to the atrocities. The president of France, Francois Hollande, declared a state of emergency and installed border checks. For international matters, Group 20 (G20), a forum of 20 of the most economically stable governments, met in Antalya, Turkey on November 15 to discuss a way to take down the ISIS powers. There, President Obama said, “The killing of innocent people based on a twisted ideology is an attack not just on France. It’s an attack on the civilized world.”
People did not hesitate to show their support for Paris, especially through social media. #PrayforParis was trending on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Jean Jullien’s now iconic artwork of the Eiffel Tower as a peace sign went viral. People posted pictures of buildings around the globe, including Cincinnati’s very own Duke Energy Convention Center that was lit up as the colors of the French flag. The world was united, not only against ISIS, but all injustices.
Chaos and fear ensued after the attacks. President Hollande closed French borders, the US released a worldwide travel safety alert effective until
February 2016, global security has been tightened, and ISIS members released a threatening video stating they were coming after Europe and the Western World. America has been affected dramatically by this new threat of terrorism. Even in the city of Cincinnati, there is a sense of fear, knowing full well that anything could change in the matter of seconds.
For the Smith family of Anderson, whose name has been changed for this article for the sake of privacy and security, matters of safety are especially important to watch. Mr. Smith works for a large corporation located in the Cincinnati area. As a part of his job, he travels to Europe for two weeks about five times a year. Typically, he says it is very easy to travel to and from countries within Europe. He adds that he also goes through the Paris airports when flying.
At the time of the attacks, Mr. Smith was working in northern Italy. Unaware of what was happening, he discovered the news of the terrorist attacks when his daughter frantically texted him. Surprisingly, Mr. Smith said he wasn’t overly worried about his safety. Having gone through the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he knew that security would be at its best because they were prepared. That being said, Mr. Smith believes this is the safest time to go to Europe—it’s when no one is expecting anything that one should worry.
Still having five days left of his two weeks, Mr. Smith said that his only worry was that he wouldn’t be able to get home. His flight home would be through the Paris airport and with the French borders blocked and
Paris itself on lock down, it would be difficult. When it was finally time to return to the States, Mr. Smith noted the amount of law enforcement present, not just in cities or popular places. French policemen guarded the highways and the borders, while the army was at the airport. While most people would fear travel the most after a large terrorist attack, Mr. Smith felt safe flying home. He trusted in the advanced security of the French military and the Paris airport was what he believed the safest place to be traveling. Due to this added level of security and caution, Mr. Smith will continue to travel to Europe for work. Because of his own experience, Mr. Smith thinks that rather than fearing what could happen, people should just remain aware of their surroundings; an important message to remember in such dark times.
Mr. Smith’s unique perspective provides a light amidst the darkness in France as well as all Western civilization. Not only do we take comfort in feeling there is a new awareness surrounding terrorism, but also a new found strength in being brought together as people with a common goal – to defeat terrorism. Though not physically in France, it is valuable to the French people that our spirit is with them.
For those who are old enough to have lived through 9/11, this feeling of being united by the pain of terrorism is not new. For our teenage generation, while we know of the horrors of 9/11, these feelings have now become a reality for us. After the Paris attacks, we can vividly see how easy it is for our lives to be horribly changed in just a matter of seconds. Living through an experience such as this, even from across the ocean, presents a new perspective that provides a stronger appreciation for our families, our freedoms, the security that living in America provides, and for the support of our global community. Together with those who have experienced terror before, we stand against injustice. Events such as this allow us to see hope in humanity once again through the memorials, the rally cries, and the tears shared by millions. Through this tragedy, people of all nations, races, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and religions are united as one in their will to take down terrorism and all injustices.