Terror attack shakes Paris, France

Almost a year after the Nice attack, France has again been the stage for conversations about terrorism. This time, an attack happened in Paris on the Champs-Élysées, the city’s most famous avenue located in the eighth arrondissement.

On April 20, according to French police, a suspect, who arrived on a vehicle, started shooting the police officers in the area. Two officers were wounded as well as a bystander. A third police officer and the suspect were killed at the scene.

Although shaking the nation and leaving Parisians concerned, the country woke up the next day as if nothing had happened. Junior Danika Gottbrecht who is currently studying abroad in Strasbourg, a city four and a half hours away from the French capital, says the attack did not stop regular activities in her city.

“My classmates and I were extremely saddened and frightened by the news,” said Gottbrecht in an email interview. “However, the morning after the attack, everyone carried on with their daily lives. I saw the same people on the train on my way to work.

“The shooting made the front page, but was featured in a small section in the right-hand corner. The most prominent news story was about the election (that) weekend.”

The day after the attack, French police confirmed that the suspect, Karim Cheurfi, had a long record, including a decade in prison for attempted murder. The 39-year-old French national had also been under suspicion of terrorist activities since March.

The officers who responded to the incident and shot Cheurfi found a handwritten note near his body that contained words of praise for the Islamic State group.

To some people, this devotion to IS is hurtful to the Muslim community and a danger to teenagers and children around the world.

“Young people who are marginalized, stereotyped and discriminated against are easy targets for ISIS recruiters,” said Mary-Claire Sei, an undergraduate at Juniata College also studying abroad in France, in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “I hope that the French government works to stamp out Islamophobia and reaches out to the Muslim community in order to start a productive conversation.

“When these things happen it is important to always remember to stay informed and to not generalize or stereotype. I work with hundreds of refugees and undocumented persons and I have never once felt unsafe.”

Since the Charlie Hebdo shooting on Jan. 7, 2015, the French government has increased security, hoping to decrease the number of terrorism episodes.

“I was in Paris over spring break, and I didn’t notice that much had changed,” said Visiting Instructor of Foreign Languages Janet Starmer. “But due to several attacks over the past years, each time I’ve been to France I’ve noticed increased military and security presence in the streets, at museums, shops, etc.

“I personally think such attacks could happen anywhere, so France isn’t necessarily unsafe. But it’s not hard to imagine why a large city such as Paris could be the target of such attacks.”

According to others who have recently been in France, there were no clear demonstrations of xenophobia or Islamophobia.

“I did not notice heightened xenophobia on the streets of Paris,” said Associate Professor of Foreign Languages Maria Bobroff. “(But) I spent most of my time with like-minded friends and family.

“As a white woman, I am not subjected to extra police scrutiny. And as someone who speaks the language and used to live in Paris, I know my way around the city, and I do not stand out as foreign.”

For those who feel like Europe or other places in the world are not safe for them, but still wish to study abroad during their time at Guilford, the Study Abroad Office says they make sure students are safe.

“We have a couple of emergency protocols that we go through,” said Assistant Director of Study Abroad Robert Van Pelt ‘15. “First, we reach out to all of our faculty leaders in Europe and ask that they do a headcount of their students just to be sure that everyone is (present), even if it’s during the week like this incident was.

“On weekends we reach out to individual students because typically what we see is that during the weekends people travel, and so we reach out to the faculty leaders as well as the students.”

If a student is not in a faculty-led program, there is still support from Guilford and other programs.

“For those who are in our affiliate networks, such as International Studies Abroad, we reach out to our coordinators, and they are already doing their checkups for all of their students,” said Van Pelt. “It’s a process of working its way down the pipeline to where they get back to us.

“When the attacks on London happened a month or so ago, we worked that chain of communication to let people know that everyone was okay and to check on who’s in that continent.”

Currently there are no Guilford students living in Paris.

“We are all becoming so desensitized to stories like this,” said Gottbrecht. “But the frequency of these events is becoming normalized in our global society. And that is the scariest realization of all.”