International Disasters: Paris, Beruit and Baghdad

By Laura Carr

Editor-in-Chief

Cell phones pinged with social media alerts as news of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France began to surface on Friday evening. Within several hours, after the first attack took place at 9:20 p.m. UTC in the Stade de France, Facebook was flooded with notifications about friends and relatives who had checked in as safe. However, alerts also started to trickle in with the latest news about the climbing death toll, and feelings of worry were still abound.

A timeline of the attacks courtesy of CNN shows that the next attack took place outside of two restaurants at 9:25 p.m., followed by a second explosion in the Stade de France at 9:30 p.m. Between 9:30 p.m. and 9:55 p.m. UTC, five more attacks took place. By 12:20 a.m., the terrorists responsible for the attack had taken hostages in the popular Bataclan concert venue, and the French police had begun to raid the building in an attempt to rescue the hostages.

The Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the attacks on Nov. 14, calling them “the first of the storm,” and citing the reason for Paris as a target because it is a “capital of prostitution and obscenity.” The statement was released on an encrypted messaging platform called Telegram that is used by ISIS. As of now, the death toll stands at 129 people, with 352 people injured and at least 99 of those individuals in critical condition.

Only one American was identified as a victim of the attack, Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, a student at the California State University at Long Beach who was studying abroad at the Strate College of Design. There are Denison students currently studying abroad in France. According to the Off Campus Study Office, four Denison students are studying in France.

“Nobody was staying in Paris and all of our students have been accounted for and thankfully nobody was hurt,” said a representative from the Off Campus Study Office.

Davide Rangel ‘16, an economics and Spanish major from Chicago, has two friends studying abroad in Southern France and three friends living in Paris. “I was very confused as to why that happened in Paris,” Rangel said. “I was trying to process what happened. I immediately tried to contact them and I didn’t get immediate responses. There was a lot of uncertainty because I didn’t know if they were okay or if something had happened. I wasn’t just concerned about them, but also about my host family living in Spain and friends living in Europe.”

“I’m very relieved that they are okay but the possibility that something like this may occur again, here or anywhere else, is terrifying.”

Courtney Vinopal ‘13 serves as the Managing Editor of Publications at the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C. Vinopal said, “The French Embassy has been really overwhelmed and thankful for the support that the American public has given us and I think that [the Embassy] will see more of that in the coming days.”

She added, “When the attacks first broke [there were] people coming outside the Embassy leaving messages of solidarity and flowers. When I came to work today, the flowers were covering the whole front lawn.”

“This weekend, there was a vigil that was spontaneously organized outside of the White House and the ambassador for France was there. There were easily over 100 people who came out to pay respects to the victims and their families. A lot of people stayed to sing the French national anthem and they lit candles and stayed for at least an hour and even well into the night to honor the victims and think about their families and friends that had been lost. ”

Vinopal said that the French Embassy has a condolence book for ambassadors and U.S. officials to sign. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser visited the Embassy to sign the book on Monday.

ISIS is also responsible for a funeral bombing in Baghdad, Iraq that killed at least 18 people on Nov. 13, and an attack in Beirut, Lebanon on Nov. 12 that killed 43 people and wounded 239. This recent slew of ISIS terrorist attacks marks the first time that ISIS has truly targeted areas outside of the Middle East.

Leaders met with President Barack Obama at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey this week to discuss a strategy to combat ISIS.