Tragedy in Paris: students and staff feel effects

Eiffel+Tower

By Jahnavi Rao and Elizabeth Billman, Staff Reporters
November 13 was a regular Friday night out for Conestoga reading specialist and English teacher Mary Kamfonas’ son, who studies piano at École Normale de Musique de Paris.
“He was at a movie theater the night of the attack watching ‘Spectre,’ as a matter of fact,” Kamfonas said. “Everyone started to talk and whisper and chat, and he was upset because he was watching the movie and (wondered) why was everybody talking. All of a sudden everything stopped, the lights went on and they said, ‘We need to evacuate, there has been an attack.’” 
On the night of Nov. 13, 2015, the world stood behind France after a series of terror attacks in Paris. Throughout Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis, 130 people were killed and hundreds more injured by suicide bombers and shootings in restaurants, cafés and the Bataclan music hall.
Junior Christian Godfrey’s cousin was at the Bataclan concert hall itself when it was attacked.
“He heard a gunshot and he was with his girlfriend. He dove to the ground in between two seats, he told me, and people around him were getting shot and he stayed to the ground and didn’t move or anything,” Godfrey said.
French teacher and native Parisian William Rivé also has family in Paris, where he visits almost every year. His family felt the impact of the attacks in a less direct but still powerful way.
“My parents were at that venue, the Bataclan, five days before, and my sister was outside when it happened so she was kind of stuck at a restaurant,” Rivé said. “It’s been tough because where it happened, I know the area. My wife and I actually go to one of those restaurants.”
In France, the reaction of citizens varied, but one of rebuilding and unity is a tone that resonates.
My son “wants to get back to work and get involved in his studies and his piano playing. They are putting on a benefit this weekend for those in need. Worry, yes. But faith, faith that things will all turn out,” Kamfonas said.
For the people of Paris “it’s been hard, it hasn’t been the same. But they want to still be the same and they keep going out, doing what they do every day,” Rivé said.
While time has passed since the attacks, they will not be soon forgotten, especially by those directly affected.
Godfrey says that his cousin “has gone through a lot of therapy, but his girlfriend won’t stop crying and it’s hard on the family.”
The citizens of France have been changed, each dealing with these events in their own ways. However, in today’s society, any tragedy of this scale is a global one, and the world shares in the fears and hopes of the people of France.
“I think everyone is a little bit more alert, concerned. We are a very mobile society, we work in far away places, we travel to faraway places, we are on the move. Now we have got to think twice and be very careful. This idea of revenge, I’m not favoring the revenge aspect of it,” Kamfonas said. “In this community I think we are much more sensitive to the needs of others and I hope that wins over insensitivity.”
Godfrey, Kamfonas and Rivé all plan to continue visiting France and their families in the future. Kamfonas finds hope in the unity and support other nations have shown. She also hopes that the community faces the situation with optimism and positivity rather than violence or hatred.
“We are worried for the world. We don’t want to cower and be afraid, but it is a concern of ours. What is our world turning into and are we going to be able to enjoy our freedoms with this wave of destruction?” Kamfonas said. “We need to be hopeful and we need to be strong and we need to be positive about it. But boy, it’s a scary time, and the world is changing. We just hope that we can adjust and bring about the peace and freedoms that we all deserve.”
Jahnavi Rao can be reached at [email protected].
Elizabeth Billman can be reached at [email protected].