Four simultaneous terrorist attacks struck Paris on Friday, for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
Valparaiso University senior Kenneth Bouman and juniors Jordan Bauer, Mackenzie Allen and Aaron Cartwright, studying abroad in Reutlingen, Germany, were travelling in Paris when the attacks happened.
Cartwright stayed at their AirBnB site, while the other three travelled into the city to get dinner and walk around. They were very close to the epicenter of the ISIS attacks.
“We couldn’t tell just by looking around, but looking back at the timeline of how the events went down and at a map of the path we took, 1.9 km [from the concert hall] is pretty scary close,” Bouman said.
That translates to a little more than a mile away.
As the three students departed Paris Proper on the train toward their AirBnB host, Cartwright called Bouman to ensure the safety of his fellow travelers.
“Aaron [Cartwright] called us right after we got on the train just to make sure we were OK and to make sure we knew to get out, to leave the city as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” Bouman said. “When Mackenzie [Allen] asked what was going on I just said that I would tell them later. The atmosphere on the train was such that I didn’t really feel comfortable saying out loud and in English that there had been terrorist attacks.”
Family and friends stateside were notified by both the students and, later, Interim Director of Study Abroad Programs Hugh McGuigan.
“I sent an email on Saturday to all the students expressing our support and telling them that all kinds of people are asking about their wellbeing and safety, and we’re keeping them in our thoughts and prayers,” McGuigan said. “I also called the parents of the students.”
Most important of all was that the students’ families knew they were safe and secure for their remaining time in France.
“Family will always come first,” Bouman said. “I was very lucky to be able to tell my family before they knew that the attacks had even taken place, so we could right off the bat eliminate the panic that could have arisen in that situation.”
The hardest part of the whole situation, said Bouman over and over again, was assuring his family and his fiancée that he was indeed safe remaining in France, and felt secure travelling back to Reutlingen with the other students on Saturday.
After returning on Saturday afternoon, the students and the other 12 students studying in Reutlingen sat down with their resident director, Carter Hanson, to debrief on the events of the previous evening and to discuss the safety precautions all students should be taking when travelling.
Throughout the experience, not one of the students ever considered coming back to the States.
“It was a very localized attack, so I think wanting to go back home wouldn’t really be justified; maybe at the most it would have been reasonable to want to go back to Germany as quickly as possible,” Bouman said.
All students studying abroad in Germany and Paris are safe.
Contact Abigail Bouwma at email@example.com.