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Paris Attacks Hit Home for French UT Students

Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn/Flickr


News Writer


“I felt so angry and somewhat traumatized,” Axel Finot, a freshman and international student from France said. He was in his dorm room, working, when a good friend informed him about the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. At seven different locations around the city, terrorists from the Islamic extremist group, ISIS, open fired, leaving 129 people dead and nearly 400 injured.


“I jumped to the television, turned on the news and tried to grasp what was going on,” Finot said.


Carolyn Plantin, also a freshman from France, was in her dorm room when a friend informed her about the attacks. “I knew my parents were probably safe, but it was more of the fact that 150 innocent people were shot and dead,” she said.


Plantin called her parents, who live just outside the city, to ensure that they were safe. “It was scary. People had been randomly shot,” Plantin said. She knew that she had friends at the France vs. Germany soccer match at the capital’s main sporting venue, Stade de France. “It was Friday night. I knew my friends would be out in the streets,” Plantin said, but she was able to confirm that her friends were safe because of the “Safety Check-in” that Facebook enacted just after the attacks occurred.


Neither Finot nor Plantin had family harmed in the attacks, but each had connections to people who did. Finot’s close family friend lost his brother-in-law and the friend’s sister was shot and critically injured. “After 8 hours of surgery, she woke up and could barely remember anything,” said Finot. Several of Plantin’s friends were injured while exiting the stadium after it was bombed. They have since been released from the hospital.


The world was left in shock. “Attacks are not common for the French,” Finot said. “Having one like this pass [through spec-ops] was, really, a big shock.” Alan Acree, terrorism professor at UT and retired Air Force Intelligence Officer, said that France was targeted for a few different reasons. For one, he said, France is the most visited city in the world. “Terrorist attacks in large cities, such as Paris, spread fear, panic, and mass chaos throughout and perpetuates the myth that terrorists are unstoppable,” Acree wrote, in an email. He also said that France is easy to access. “Cross border travel among European Union members to large cities in Europe is often seamless and does not always present immigration obstacles that could otherwise detect and deter a terrorist,” he said.


French President Francois Hollande  jumped into action immediately, just three days after the attacks. According to CNN, on Monday, November 16, President Hollande ordered 12 aircrafts to drop 20 bombs on ISIS positions in Raqqa, Syria. Shortly after, President Hollande addressed the entire French Parliament to officially declare war on ISIS.


Handling ISIS has been a controversial subject for some time, especially in the U.S. and President Hollande’s bold orders have sparked disagreement among many. “I don’t think that bombing Raqqa was a good solution in itself, our president is clueless and has no idea what to do,” Finot explained. Plantin feels differently. “A war was going to happen anyway,” she said, matter-of-factly.


Amidst the terror and tragedy, there was an outpouring of heartening support across the globe. “I loved how so many countries supported France,” Finot said. “The French-English soccer game was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen,” he included, referring to the pre-game ceremony. The stadium sang the French national anthem in harmony and both teams stood in a circle on the field to observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives.


“I love seeing the blue, white, and red everywhere,” Plantin said. The French flag is being widely honored from Facebook profile filters to landmark buildings being lit up around the world. “It was really inspiring to see so many people and countries stand up with the French colors held high,” Finot said.


Plantin explained that she believes everyone is afraid, mentally, but people cannot let that affect them. “One of the major goals of all terrorist organizations is to incite fear into the general populace,” Acree explained in his email. “If we allow this to happen; then the terrorists have achieved a substantial psychological goal.”


Plantin nostalgically spoke about the strength of the French citizens. President Hollande restricted people from congregating in the streets. Yet, that same night, an amazing amount of people gathered in the streets, singing the national anthem while holding huge signs and candles. “They wanted to show that this did not crush France. This has only made the French community stronger,” she said.

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