Virginia college student, N.C. moms describe being in France during Paris attacks

PARIS, France (WRIC/WAVY) — Travelers were left stranded when France closed its borders. Americans had no way to get home and here in the U.S., French travelers had a similar problem.

Americans have been opening their homes to French travelers, using the hashtag #StrandedInUS to find those that need a place to stay. Paris residents were also using the hashtag #PorteOuverte, or “open door,” to offer shelter to stranded strangers.

In France, two of those stranded American travelers were moms from North Carolina. Kati Wilkins and Johanna Munnelly were not far from one of the attacks that happened in a theater. They have since returned home.

When the attacks happened, Wilkins and Munnelly were in a theater in the 18th district getting ready to see a show.

“We heard sirens and commotion and we turned our phones on and we were getting messages from friends and family back home asking if we were okay. They are the ones that told us what was going on,” Kati Wilkins said.

Family and friends were at Norfolk International Airport waiting for their arrival. Wilkins and Munnelly had been in Paris since Wednesday for a conference that included people from 72 countries.

“I was ready to leave. I was ready to come back to our place and hide here,” Wilkins said.

The North Carolina natives say the Parisians have shown them nothing but hospitality and they hope the city of light soon shines bright again.

“The Parisians here are absolutely wonderful and they have been very welcoming and very friendly. It wouldn’t be fair to say I’m never coming back to Paris because of this one experience,” explained Munnelly.

The ladies say although their plans were cut short, they would go back to Paris.

8News sister station WSLS conducted a live interview with two Virginia students currently studying abroad in Paris. Madison Pinckes, a Roanoke college Student and friend Jonathan Drapinski of Boston were only eight blocks away when the attacks began.

Stay with 8News for continuing coverage of this developing story.

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