Kimia Simon was working at The Cellar Friday afternoon, as she does most Fridays, when she saw on her phone that Paris, her home, was under attack.
Simon, who is studying at Richmond for the academic year, said she lived in the 12th district of Paris, adjacent to the 10th and 11th districts where Islamic extremists carried out four of their six overall attacks that killed at least 128 people, and injured hundreds.
“If I had been in Paris I would have been in the streets,” Simon said.
One of Simon’s friends was killed, and loved ones, including her father, were in danger that night, she said.
“I tried to call [my father] and for like 45 minutes he did not answer me, which was the longest 45 minutes of my life,” she said.
Simon left work early, and her friends pulled her to a Richmond men’s basketball game because they would not let her stay in her room alone. “Obviously I couldn’t watch the game,” she said. “I don’t know who won or who lost.”
Simon found other French students, who she stayed with as they received updates from the news outlets reporting on the ongoing attacks. “We just cried,” Simon said. “We couldn’t believe it.”
Simon learned that two of her friends had been at a bar that was attacked Friday night.
“One of them had to run away, and the other one had to hide behind a couch,” Simon said.
Then came the news from Le Bataclan. Three attackers opened fire during a rock show, taking many hostages in the process. French police stormed the concert hall about two hours later, killing one attacker while the other two detonated suicide bombs. In all, 92 people, including one of Simon’s friends, were killed at Le Bataclan.
“I just fell down,” Simon said, “and I couldn’t stand up.”
In the days after the attacks Simon has noticed differing reactions amongst her family and close friends. “All my family is okay," Simon said. "They are all in shock but they are trying to live again and to laugh.”
Simon and her friends, however, are more lost.
“We just have this weird feeling of being hopeless and being empty, and not be able to understand or know what to do,” Simon said.
The two friends who were in a bar when it was attacked have cut some ties of communication. “They deleted their Facebook. They did not answer me," Simon said. "They just say ‘I’m fine’ and that’s it.”
Simon also said she wished she could be home.
"Obviously everyone here supports us and thinks about us," she said. "but it's not the same thing as to be around French people, and to be around this whole family.”
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