Following the attacks that occurred in Paris over the weekend, students in the French community at Wesleyan organized an event to pay their respects to Paris, as well as the attacks that recently occurred in Beirut and Baghdad. Students held a moment of silence on the loud side of the Usdan Marketplace on Monday, Nov. 16.
On Nov. 13, three teams of terrorists carried out coordinated attacks throughout Paris. Two suicide bombers exploded outside a soccer stadium in which French President Francois Holland was viewing an exhibition match. Several shootings occurred at multiple bars and restaurants, as well as, a mass shooting and suicide bombing at a concert hall. These incidents are considered the deadliest attacks in France since World War II.
“We just felt like, we’re about 20 French people on this campus,” said graduate student Natacha Beilikoff. “Last night we met together and I think we just wanted to [honor these victims.] In France today, at noon, they had a minute of silence nationwide…We also do it for the world, because a bunch of [tragedies] have been happening.”
Julie Schwartz ’19 echoed these sentiments.
“Yeah, recent atrocities that occurred in Beirut, in Baghdad, in Kenya,” Schwartz said. “It’s a minute of silence to pray for the victims and the families of the victims, and to hope that things are going to be better in the future, and also [to] show that the world is not okay with what they’re doing, and that we’re not going to stop living the way we live, and what they did is not going to change how we live and what we do.”
Beilikoff, Schwartz, and Emma Distler ’19 created a Facebook event to advertise their moment of silence, called “Silent Usdan for Paris.” The event encouraged students to attend and honor the victims of the Paris shooting, as well as send thoughts to their families
Wesleyan students who are currently abroad on the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris are all accounted for and safe.
“I have not spoken with our students directly, but our staff in Paris…has worked very closely with our folks to ensure that [everyone] was safely accounted for, which they are,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Now of course they’re traumatized and anxious, I can imagine, and we are doing our best to assist them.”
Wesleyan students in Paris this semester described their emotions following the attacks.
“Personally, I feel both distant from and close to the situation,” Jessie Abdow ’17 wrote in an email to The Argus. “I was in the city when it happened, I know where the locations of the attacks are…but at the same time I don’t have any relation to anyone who was killed.”
Erica DeMichiel ’17, also studying abroad in Paris this semester, was in London last weekend. Upon returning to her apartment in London Friday evening, she was shocked at the events that unfolded in Paris.
“When I left Paris for London on Thursday afternoon, everything seemed normal,” DeMichiel said. “[It was] just people getting ready to enjoy the weekend as usual.”
She added, however, that upon returning to Paris on Monday, Nov. 16, the area in which her host family resides changed completely.
“My commute by bus back to the 20th arrondissement on Monday afternoon was anything but typical,” DeMichiel said. “Passing through the Place de la République, I saw armed guards, TV crews, and a huge crowd of people gathered at the center, which has since become a place of mourning for Parisians. From the avenue, I could just make out a sign reading ‘Même pas peur’ [Not Afraid] affixed to the monument. There’s definitely a tangible sense of solidarity in the wake of the terror.”
Abdow, on the other hand, noted that to her, Paris does not feel too different or changed.
“It’s similar to how Paris in general feels to me right now: life seems to be going on as usual, because it has to, but you know at the same time what everyone is really thinking about,” Abdow wrote in an email to The Argus.
Students from Vassar College who are abroad in Paris also shared their reactions. Albert Muzquiz, Vassar College ’17, decided to visit the site of the attacks following the aftermath.
“I was in the crowd and saw a woman on crutches, who was wounded in the attack, bring flowers to honor a friend who hadn’t survived,” Muzquiz said. “It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
Roth added that it is imperative that Wesleyan reach out to both students who are abroad and those who have family in Paris.
“We also have a number of students on campus who are from Paris or around Paris,” he said. “I know that the Dean of Students has reached out to those students who have families are there.”
Although there are many individuals at Wesleyan supporting these students, Schwartz explained that it is unfortunate to be away at this time.
“In times like this, I kind of wish I was home and with my friends and my family,” Schwartz said. “So by doing this, we feel like we’re surrounded by people who understand what we are going through right now.”