It was just like any other Friday night for UVM graduate Katie Heggie.
She and a couple friends headed downtown to the center of Nantes, France to enjoy a couple cold drinks and catch the football game at a local Irish pub called John McByrne.
As she finished getting ready and stepped outside of her apartment, Heggie recalled how safe and at home she felt in a country that welcomed her with open arms.
“I just remember walking outside, without a thought in the world that something this tragic could happen in a city that has shown me nothing but kindness.”
Heggie’s tone turned somber as she revisited the subject of the brutal attacks on Paris in mid-November.
“I was at a bar watching the football game when the attacks happened. The screen cut out and the news came on.” She paused before continuing. “And right as that happened, the entire street went absolutely silent.”
On Nov. 13, the streets of Paris were targeted by ISIS when six local venues in the city were attacked in unforgivable acts of terrorism.
As panic and chaos erupted throughout the bar, that sense of safeness and security Heggie had felt only an hour ago vanished – and was instead replaced with a sickness in her stomach that refused to disappear.
Separated by more than 3,000 miles of sea from her home in Vermont, Heggie described her decision to stay in Nantes, France and continue teaching English to middle schoolers as the right thing to do.
“I was afraid at first, but everyone I have encountered has said they must continue living and traveling; as well as having fun. It’s been comforting in that sense,” Heggie explained, “However, that being said, the streets of Paris have been very quiet, and on the metro, everyone was looking around and seemed on edge. There is tension surely, but people are going on with their lives – so why shouldn’t I?”
What Heggie found remarkable was the immense display of pride that blossomed throughout France from such an outrageous set of crimes. The people of this historic city have turned this unthinkable event into an opportunity to unify as not only Paris, but with the rest of the world.
“The French never displayed their flag proudly like we do as Americans, and suddenly the flag was all over the place, which really is a topic of conversation because that rarely happened before apparently,” Heggie announced.
She even mentioned how “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem, has been randomly sung in crowds all over and many people have been participating in solidarity marches and peace protests.
Considered to be the worst act of violence since WWII in France, that Friday the 13th has been embedded into the minds of people all over the world. It is an act of terrorism that will never be forgotten, but the people of France have united as one to overcome such a tragedy.
“It is a day I will never forget,” Heggie said.