Attacks in Paris reverberate throughout Gettysburg
By Brendan Raleigh, Editor-in-Chief
A series of terrorist attacks took place in Paris, France this past week, killing more than 120 people and injuring over 400. The attacks, which occurred on the evening of Friday, Nov. 13, consisted of numerous coordinated bombings and mass shootings throughout the city.
While investigations are still underway, The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks. French and American authorities have expressed their beliefs that the Islamist militant group is responsible.
Though the attacks took place nearly 4,000 miles away from Gettysburg, they have nevertheless had their effects on the Gettysburg College Community.
“The events of this past weekend are still very heavy to bear,” said Professor Florence Jurney, a native of France and the chair of the Gettysburg French department. “Some of us on campus are French Nationals, others have been adopted by France and see it as their home away from home. The landscape that is so familiar to us will be altered for months to come, and people will have to find ways to grieve.”
“[My reaction] was pretty much what everyone was feeling,” said Professor Jack Murphy, another member of the college’s French department. “Shock and sadness and anger, too.”
To help his students understand the attacks and how they were affecting France, Murphy and his classes went through French newspapers to analyze the reactions of French politicians and how they envisioned the country moving forward.
The day after the attacks occurred, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing Paul Redfern sent an email out to the college to confirm that all study-abroad students were “safe and accounted for.”
Of the study-abroad students, those in the Aix-en-Provence program were physically closest to the attacks – around 400 miles away from Paris. Even from that distance, students still felt the gravity of the situation.
“Overall, we all felt slightly unsafe,” said junior Alec Cottone. “Though most of us were far away from the tragedy, it still felt close and personal. While I have not talked to many French people about the attacks, everyone seems to be remaining strong. […] The French will not let this stop their daily lives. They will all continue to soldier on.”
“As a whole community, you could tell everyone in the town is mourning,” said junior Morgan Knowles, who was also in Aix at the time. “Even though we aren’t very close to Paris, it still took a toll on us. There are places around the town where flowers and candles have been placed in remembrance of these acts and the people who died. All the French people have really taken a hit from these events. It is hard not to.”
Junior Shannon Doyle was staying in Paris at the time of the attacks.
“At first, we thought it was a car crash or something like that, but we noticed that the police response was abnormally quick and was followed by multiple fire trucks and ambulances,” said Doyle. “Not knowing what was happening, we went downstairs to the lobby of our hotel to see a lot of bystanders looking onto the situation. One man I asked had said that he heard an explosion in the restaurant but there was rumors of gunshots as well.”
“There is an air of sadness and somberness, similar I would imagine to that after 9/11, though I was too young to really remember,” continued Doyle. “There is also, however, a sense of solidarity. When we left our hotel in Paris the next day, the few people that were out in the road were talking with one another, grieving together and trying to process what had happened.”
Morgan Knowles said of the current atmosphere in France, “Things have lightened up, but there is still a feeling of sadness in the town and a heavy presence of police and security are a constant reminded about the attack.”
To show support for France and the victims of the attack, Gettysburg students back on campus organized a vigil for the victims of the attacks.
Meghan O’Donnell, a sophomore and a French major, planned the vigil, which will take place on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the CUB Ballroom.
“I organized the vigil in part as a way to honor [the professors who are from France] and their families, friends and neighbors in France,” said O’Donnell. “However, I also organized the vigil to join together the members of the Gettysburg College Community in solidarity and with the understanding that we are part of a larger human community.”
In addition to honoring the victims of the Paris attacks, O’Donnell stated that the vigil also will seek to honor the victims of attacks in Beirut and Baghdad.
To show of support for the people of France, many around the world and on the Gettysburg College campus have added a filter of the French flag to their profile pictures on Facebook.
“The solidarity expressed by Americans has been humbling,” said Professor Jurney. “Those of us living outside of France have been deeply touched by the many messages of support we have received. We are, and I certainly am, reminded, yet again, of the friendship that unites our two countries.”