by Brinley Hineman // Staff writer
People all over the world were shocked on Friday, Nov. 13, when France experienced the worst amount of violence the country has seen since World War II due to a series of terrorist attacks in Paris.
“I got a load of messages on my phone and news reports saying that Paris was under siege with terrorist attacks all over,” said Franklin resident Norman Martin, a 20-year-old student studying abroad in Paris at ESLSCA Business University.
He was at a movie theater, just blocks away, during the attack. Until then, it was a typical Friday night.
Martin and four of his friends were attending a late night movie when they were notified of the attacks happening around them. Looking around the packed theater, Martin noticed that his fellow moviegoers were becoming aware, too. Tension filled the air.
“All of a sudden the lights came on right away and the movie simultaneously shut down and the entire place was flooded with police – heavily armed police – a SWAT team, pretty much,” he recalled.
Police officers then evacuated the theater, ushering people through security and then outside into the streets.
After that, it turned into chaos, he said.
“The worst part was we were pretty close. We were a few hundred yards away from one of the explosions,” Martin said, describing the scene he faced when forced into the streets. “I was afraid … everyone was. It was pretty chaotic.”
In wake of the attacks, all public transportation had been shut down, leaving Martin and his group stranded in the middle of the night in Paris.
“I was there with a friend in a wheel chair and people would cut in front of him and wouldn’t let him get a taxi,” he said. “Everybody was just trying to get the hell out of there.”
Following the attacks, the police blocked off most of the city, as seen in this short video provided by Martin:
“Everything was blocked with police cars and it was just a surreal time,” he said. “There was a fair amount of panic.”
After hours of being displaced in Paris, Martin and one of his friends began their trek home to their apartment on the other side of the city. Since biking is very popular in Paris, there are stations throughout the city where pedestrians can rent bikes. Despite the attacks, they were still open, giving Martin a way home.
They were lucky, though. Many others were stranded in the streets, forced to seek shelter in the homes of strangers.
A couple days later, in the safe and calm refuge of his apartment, Martin reflected upon what he witnessed Friday night.
“I absolutely did not absorb anything [at the time.] It was completely unreal,” Marin said. “You see this kind of stuff in movies or on television, but we were so close to the terrorist attack … there were eight of them. Just yesterday the Eiffel tower was evacuated. Everyone is on high alert.”
According to Martin, Paris is the equivalent of a ghost town following the attacks. Typically an upbeat city filled with the hustle and bustle of daily life, Parisians have retreated to their homes and businesses remain closed.
The attacks did not break the French spirit, though. Friday night the French national anthem could be heard being sung with pride by civilians in the streets of Paris.
Video provided by Norman Martin
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