On Friday, Nov. 13, three teams of ISIS attackers launched terrorist assaults in Paris, France, killing over 129 people. The impact of this assault was felt worldwide, even reaching the Ramapo community. Among the Ramapo students with connections to Paris was Shannon Jirkovsky, a senior who studied abroad in Paris during the spring 2014 semester.
“I thought it was just a random shooting at first. I didn't want to jump straight to a terrorist attack. I was hopeful that it was just going to be something small,” said Jirkovsky, who is also the president of Global Roadrunners.
According to the New York Times, the first attack took place when a suicide bomb detonated outside of Stade de France on the northern outskirts of Paris. This was followed by an attack at a restaurant, Le Petit Cambodge, and at Le Bataclan, a concert hall where the Californian band Eagles of Death Metal was playing.
“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France,” the New York Times quoted French President François Hollande as saying the following day.
At Ramapo, President Mercer emailed the College the following morning, offering the school’s assistance and support:
“I am saddened and shocked by the news of the heinous attacks on Paris. Our prayers and condolences go out to the victims and families. Ramapo College will offer whatever support is needed to our students, faculty and staff who have friends and loved ones in France or who may have been particularly affected by these events,” Mercer said in the email.
Some students, like Jirkovsky, made an effort to reach out to friends in Paris.
“The first thing I did was message my host family to see if they were okay, and thankfully, they all were. The friends that I made who lived in Paris all marked themselves safe on Facebook, but I'm curious about the professors I had over there that I'm not friends with on Facebook,” Jirkovsky said.
One Ramapo student, senior Cassidy Ebert, was in Paris during the attacks, visiting a friend.
“It was very scary,” Ebert said. “It was really overwhelming.”
Although she was in the city while the attacks were occurring, Ebert explained that it took time for her and her friends to understand what was going on.
“The reaction to it from the Internet and from other people is what really made us understand the severity of it … I didn’t really think that much of it. I thought, that’s not good, but I didn’t realize it was going to be this huge thing where people would be changing their profile pictures and everything like that,” Ebert said.
After understanding the gravity of the situation, Ebert was unsure of how to proceed.
“It made us question if we were safe … they were saying that people had grenades or bombs, and you don’t have to be out in public for that to affect you. They were saying that they were closing the borders so I was afraid that I was going to be stuck there,” she said.
Even with Internet access, Ebert explained that it was hard to know what was going on.
“Even though we knew that we were inside and that was safe, it was still not completely safe. Nobody knew what was going on; no one knew how many people were out there. After people started saying that the people who did it were dead, that’s when it started getting more calm,” Ebert said.
Despite the atrocities that occurred in Paris, Jirkovsky still encourages students to travel abroad.
“I don't think students should worry about studying abroad in Paris,” she said. “I always felt safe when I was there, and this attack in no way should deter people from studying abroad in France or anywhere, for that matter. Terrorists want us to live in fear, and by giving in to that we let them win.”
Additional reporting by Rebecca King and Brian Rocha