Students, faculty share personal thoughts and experiences on Paris terror attack
Margaret Hynds | Wednesday, January 21, 2015
In the wake of the Jan. 9 terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the hostage situation at a grocery store in Paris, Notre Dame students and faculty shared their experiences and thoughts surrounding the violence and subsequent global response.
Several students — including juniors Sheridan Rosner, Madeline Rogers and Annalise Burnett — are currently studying abroad in Paris and were in the city on the day of the attack.
Rosner, studying at the Université Paris Diderot, said she was initially unsure of what had happened.
“I was walking on Rue de Rivoli parallel to the Louvre about two hours after the attack when I noticed a huge police presence at every corner, directing traffic and surveying the area,” Rosner said in an email. “Several shop-owners were gathered around TVs, so I checked the news on my phone. I was alarmed and concerned, wanting to know more about what had happened.
“I was in the middle of exams the week of the attacks and would check the news while studying. The grocery store hostage situation was taking place a few stops down the tram line from my university although the tram was only blocked off two stops beyond where I get off.”
Rogers, also a Université Diderot student, said she tried to stay as informed as possible about the attacks.
“My initial reaction was to learn as much about the story as possible, and I kept thinking that I should feel more afraid, but I didn’t. I felt a bizarre sense of security, which I still can’t quite explain,” she said.
Rogers said she was most struck by the Parisians’ support on the streets in the days following the attacks.
“More than anything, I was moved by the amount of French citizens eager to show their solidarity,” Rogers said. “Immediately, ‘Je suis Charlie’ signs appeared everywhere, in store front windows, on banners in front of museums. Thousands of people poured into the streets the night of the attack to participate in demonstrations.”
The study abroad student was also impressed with the response in the States.
“I was also incredibly moved by the amount of people in the United States that were so concerned with my safety,” Rogers said. “Because I never felt a sense of fear or alarm, I didn’t think I merited much concern, but I was very touched by the amount of people who contacted me ‘just to make sure I was ok.'”
Burnett, who is studying at the Sciences Po in the seventh arrondissement, expressed her frustration that Notre Dame did not send information regarding safety in the wake of the attacks.
“I received ZERO communication from Notre Dame regarding the attacks, which I was very disappointed about,” Burnett said in an email.
“Sciences Po, my university here, sent out emails that they would be putting new security measures in place in line with Vigipirate. Vigipirate is France’s national security alert system and essentially their protocol in case of an emergency.”
Freshman Therese McCarry, who lives approximately 20 minutes outside of Paris with her American family, described her experience, as well.
“I do think our experience was different because we do live outside the city, and … we aren’t French, but it was just interesting because we tried to keep up with the news, but with this, you’re keeping up with the news in a daily almost hourly way because it’s happening right next to you, and I think there’s just a different sense of connection to what’s going on,” McCarry said.
Burnett also described the effect of the attacks on her experience abroad as increasing her awareness of global issues.
“The attacks have impacted my study abroad experience so far in the sense that they have shown me that being in Europe means you are not so isolated from the unrest currently going on in the world,” Burnett said. “Throughout my time here I have felt this, even before the attacks, in terms of the ISIS attacks and threats. Everything is closer, and you can tell that you’re not as far removed from dangerous situations. Specifically in Paris, there is a very visible tension between the French and the Arabs.
“There is a lot of racism, social divides and complaining about Middle Eastern and North African immigration.”
Professor Alison Rice, who teaches in French and Francophone literature, said she thought the attacks would have a lasting effect on cartoonists and writers around Paris and France.
“The outpouring of support for Charlie Hebdo in France, both for the victims of the attack and for the ongoing activity of the weekly paper, is indicative of a widespread belief in the importance of freedom of speech,” Rice said in an email. “France is a country with a centuries-old tradition of playful mockery, and the millions who took to the streets of Paris stood up for this right to poke fun at a variety of topics.
“However, I think that in the future, many writers and cartoonists will pause and carefully consider the impact that their depictions might have. I hope that the massacre at Charlie Hebdo will not result in a paralyzing fear that serves to repress the freedom of expression in the future. But it will undeniably have an effect on those who touch on contentious topics in their writings and drawings. It will necessarily play a role in the decisions all artists make in their work because the memory of these attacks will not quickly fade.”
Rice said the potential cultural and political outcomes of the attacks on France were particularly interesting.
“What I hope most fervently is that the attacks will not result in greater prejudice against Muslims in France,” Rice said. “Those who are quickly categorized as Black or Arab already face tremendous difficulty in France because of widespread racial stereotyping. It is hard for those who hail from (or whose parents or even grandparents come from) Sub-Saharan or North Africa to find good jobs and live in desirable locations in France, and it would be tragic if the attacks led to even greater suspicion and less respect for them.
“… The solidarity that was shown when millions took to the streets to peacefully unite in a march that included Muslims, Jews, and Christians of various backgrounds is a gesture toward a future that I truly and desperately hope will be the most significant outcome of the attacks.”
News writer Jack Rooney contributed to this report.