Students in Paris Recount Terror

By Caroline Agsten

Following the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris on Friday, Nov. 13, Vice President and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott and Dean of International Programs Jeff Cason reported that all 50 undergraduate and graduate students studying at Middlebury’s School in France, in addition to ten other students studying at other sites, were safe.

“We are grateful that all of our students in Paris are safe, and we will continue to monitor the situation to be sure that students are receiving the support they need,” Cason and Smith Abbott said in their email.

According to Cason and Smith Abbott, the School in France spent the evening reaching out to each of the students to confirm their well-being. Additionally, the families of students were notified of their safety.

When the attacks occurred, Vanessa Manjarrez ’17 was in the Stade de France with a group that included two other Middlebury students. According to Manjarrez, they heard “two huge bangs” when they were in the stadium and initially assumed them to have come from fireworks. Manjarrez and her friends later learned the noises came from a suicide bomber who had tickets to the game they were watching.

“We didn’t think anything of it,” Manjarrez said. “We continued watching the game until about the middle of the second half when my friend got a text message from the [Associate Director of the School in France Amy Tondu] saying there was a shooting and that we needed to go straight home. We didn’t realize the gravity of the situation, so we waited until the end to leave. At that point, our phones were flooded with ‘Are you ok?’ messages from friends and family, still not really knowing what everyone was panicked about.” She continued, “It’s been pretty traumatizing. Middlebury has told us to stay inside as much as possible this weekend and to not go anywhere where large crowds can gather.”

“I can’t stress enough how helpful the Middlebury team was during this event. They kept in touch with every student and our families until everyone was confirmed safely at home,” she said.

Edward O’Brien ’17 realized something was wrong when he learned that some metro stations were closed “by order of the Police Prefecture.”

“When [my friend and I] emerged from the station, two panicked men ran up to us to ask if the metro was still running. We told them what we knew and they ran into the subway. That was when we knew something was wrong,” O’Brien said.

“As we walked back to my apartment, we saw several people running down the street away from one of the closed stations so we sped up until we were inside,” he continued. “When I came in and turned on my computer, I had over ten messages on Facebook [from] panicked people asking where I was. Apparently, Middlebury had been calling people even before any official alerts went out. Because my phone wasn’t working, no one knew where I was.”

After watching the news, O’Brien realized that several of the attacks were a few blocks away from his apartment.

“While that night was tense, the scariest part of the attack for me was the next morning when I looked at the accurate locations of the attacks,” he said. “I realized that I had been in a restaurant right next to one of the attacks just the day before. It continues to occur to me that it was complete chance that I was not there.”

He continued, “I now feel paralyzed when deciding to leave the apartment. Each time, I wonder whether it’s a good idea. I, like many others in Paris, I think, recognize that the reason I wasn’t a victim of the attacks was nothing but chance. There’s just so much uncertainty.”

According to Cason and Smith Abbott, the College is making counseling services available for students in Paris in the wake of the attacks.

“Yesterday’s heartbreaking events have understandably created considerable anxiety, both for our students in Paris and for many here on the Middlebury campus,” they said. They encouraged students to seek additional help from residential life staff members, Commons Residential Advisers (CRAs), and Commons Deans.

Members of the Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life sponsored a vigil held outside of Mead Chapel on Monday, Nov. 16. The vigil was held following the College’s weekly, all-community silent reflection, which President of the College Laurie L. Patton invited students to attend.
“These challenging times require that we come together as a community in as many ways as possible,” she said in an email sent to students, staff and faculty.