American student abroad recalls night of ‘absolute panic’ in Paris

A man places a candle in front of the Carillon cafe in Paris Saturday Nov. 14, 2015, a day after over 120 people were killed in a series of shooting and explosions. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

PARIS (WANE) It’s 8 p.m. on Saturday in Paris when Isaiah Cureton shares his experience of what became “absolute panic,” when a stadium, a concert venue and a string of cafes were targeted in an attack on the French capital.

He said earlier Saturday he walked to the cafe where the first of many shootings occurred. It’s just five minutes from where he’s staying.

“Everyone was just really emotional and crying. There were blood banks, lines of people waiting to donate blood. There’s sand from all over the ground where the police poured sand to cover up the blood. There are bullet holes all throughout the building walls and there are flowers everywhere. It was a really somber scene,” he said.

Cureton, a student with ties to Indiana, is in Paris studying abroad. He spent a few years in elementary and middle school in Fort Wayne, the city where his mother and sisters currently live.

On Friday, Cureton had been invited to watch France take on Germany at Stade De France with his roommates and friends, but he said he preferred to sit at a local bar, The Noose. He was watching the game when he looked down at his phone and his night changed.

“I started receiving tweets that there were terrorist attacks and then I was noticing there were multiple reports, and then they were saying that they were driving around so I decided to leave because the bar I was at was a Canadian/American bar and I wasn’t sure if it was really safe or not,” he said.

Cureton’s friends at the game told him, “they heard the bomb go off but they thought it was the misfiring of a firework or potentially someone had the speakers on, and then they dropped the mic.”

They joined the hundreds of people sprinting towards the center of the field, not knowing what was going on until they over heard someone speaking in French.

“They said from there it became absolute panic,” Cureton retold. “I wasn’t sure how eminent the danger was, but I needed to get away.”

Cureton would reunite with about eight others at one of his friend’s house.

“We just turned on the news on and then… all of our friends started calling us and we started calling them and anyone who was even close to us just came to my friend’s house because really, they closed the whole city,” he said. By 10 p.m., no one was moving.

Overnight, the Associated Press would report there were more than 120 causalities and more than 300 injured. Seven attackers were killed, six of them by suicide bombs. The Islamic State group claimed to be responsible for the attacks in an online statement. French President Francois Hollande announced the country would close its borders, there would be three days of national mourning and Eiffel Tower’s lights would go out.

Cureton said on Saturday, the majority of the city was a ghost town, with about three-fourths of shops in his area closed.

“Today, there’s a lot of additional police and military force. I mean everywhere you go.”

Cureton doesn’t know what he’ll do in the upcoming days, as Paris tries to heal. He said with the semester ending he might do homework with his friends.

“The whole city has the super, terrible atmosphere all around it… so maybe we’ll do homework all day. I think this weekend it’s not really appropriate to celebrate or do much of anything.”

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