A Dartmouth Student In Paris Sees Chaotic Aftermath Of Attacks

Nov 14, 2015

Tragedies like the mass killings Friday in Paris can serve to, among many other things, reveal New Hampshire's connections to the rest of the world.

Sarah Khatry is a journalism student at Dartmouth College. She’s studying abroad in Ireland, but for the last days has been on holiday in Paris.

She joined Weekend Edition to share some of what she saw and heard following the terror attacks there.

What was the first indication you had that these attacks were going on? 

I was at a restaurant at the time, and the staff were speaking a lot with their customers, with their phones. I overheard someone say "shooting," so I asked a waitress what was going on, and she told me there had been more than one. At that point, people were requesting if they could stay, because the activity was just north of where we were. There were sirens and emergency vehicles going down the street. So the wait staff were letting people stay. 

"Shooting" can mean an isolated incident or something bigger. When did you start to realize the scale of what was happening?

It actually happened through texts from home. I got a text from someone that was "100 hostages??" - I didn't know what they were referring to - and concerned messages [such as] "Are you ok?"

This was also the point when they started pulling down the iron shutters in the restaurant, pulled down a screen, and put on a French news channel.

You were getting text messages from people who were in other parts of the world, describing things going on just down the road, essentially, from where you were, and they seemed to know more about what was going on than what you were able to know.

They knew completely more than I did - and a lot of them were keeping me safe, actually, in a way. I asked people, what neighborhoods do you hear things are going on in? Keep me updated, please. I had about five people doing that for me. 

How long was it before those metal shutters went back up and you went back out into the city? 

I think it was only about 20 minutes. At that time, Jeff Sharlet, my Dartmouth professor and supervisor, was en route, because he wanted to make sure I got home safe. When he arrived, I left, and when I left, everyone who was still working there also left. The entire quad or square was closed down by this point, which was only 11:30 at night, maybe. 

We started going west, and we were approached by a man on the street, who told us not to go that way, that there was seven men with guns that way, and shooed us in the opposite direction. We ended up going the other direction a ways, and then south only a couple blocks and hiding out in a bar that was still open, and corresponding with people back home, trying to figure out what was going on in the area around us, and if we could get around them safely.

You mentioned your professor, Jeff Sharlet, who was also in Paris. He posted a picture on his Instagram account today, saying that he went to the sites of the attack. He said he wasn't really there to report, or even to try to make sense of what had happened - he was simply looking. He just wanted to see it.

I actually went with him to the Bataclan, which is the theater that was the site of the deadliest attack. I also just wanted to see with my own eyes - there were flowers set up and that was worth seeing, yes, but it was much more important to see the people that were putting the flowers down, and see everyone gathered together even though Paris has said there can be no public gatherings during this time. There was still maybe 50 or so people passing through by those barricades and leaving flowers and messages. That was important to see.