Kadia Pickels connected her phone to the internet when she arrived home from a Jazz club and started to receive texts, tweets, and messages asking if she was OK. That was when she understood that something serious just happened. She soon learned that terrorists had launched the deadliest attack in France since World War II.
“I was mostly shocked that when I made it home safe I had been outside when it was happening and had no idea,” said Pickels.
On Nov. 13, terrorists killed 129 people in Paris, where Pickels, a student at New York University, is currently studying. Pickels said she saw restaurant employees and patrons pulling tables and chairs inside and placing wooden boards against the door. She had been told that there was a shooting in the neighborhood, but she knew that it was far enough from home that she could get home quickly. As she was walking through the streets she could hear music playing as metal grates were pulled down to cover the storefronts and all the chairs and tables had been pulled in.
Kaidia’s parents, Dwayne and Mary Pickels, received a phone call from Kadia telling them that she was OK. Her parents did not know what was going on. Dwyane Pickels started looking on his phone to see if he could find out and that is when he found out that about the attacks.
“As a parent, the first thing I wondered was what had happened. Was she in an accident? Was she sick? Was she in a hospital, thousands of miles away?” said Mrs. Pickels.
By midweek Kaidia said she was using the metro system again and began returning to class.
“She is young and fearless it was her dream to see the world,” said Mrs. Pickels.
Kaidia said that when she goes out now she makes sure that her phone is fully charged and tells a friend where she is going if she is going alone. The atmosphere over in Paris now is one of apprehension, she said, and many people are “devastated.”
Pickels has been receiving more texts and messages from her parents to make sure she is OK.
“I’m sure they were scared. I was too, but they’ve been a fantastic support system for me,” said Pickels.
Southmoreland High School French teacher Ms. Victoria Brodak feels for the families and the victims and survivors scarred from this attack.
“They did nothing to deserve this,” Mrs. Brodak said of the victims in Paris. “They were just unsuspecting victims and were just innocent bystanders.”
Kadia said she has always felt safe in the building where she lives. Over the past few days, security has increased throughout the building which she says reassures her. There are residence assistants to escort students to class, but Pickels said she hasn’t requested an escort so far.
Pickels attended a vigil the following Saturday night and lit candles in memory of those who were lost. The vigil was at Place de la République, which is near where the attacks took place. There were messages saying “We are not afraid” and peace signs.
Pickels said day-to-day life in Paris for her is similar to that in New York City. She takes the metro to and from school three days a week. She also travels a lot on weekends when she doesn’t have class so that she can explore the city. Pickels wants to see as many museums, art galleries, and monuments as she can. But she said she plans to be a more cautious since some of the popular tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower remain closed.
Pickels is studying Global Liberal Studies, which is an art degree which allows students to spend a year studying abroad. She is currently studying francophone cinema, 19th-century literature, metropolitan studies and of course French language.
Mrs. Brodak said she believes tourism will be affected since Paris has a reputation of being one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe.
“Paris certainly hasn’t lost its identity in these last few days,” Pickels said, adding that “having a routine helps maintain some of semblance of normalcy.”
Pickels will be in Paris until December when the semester ends. She will return home for the holidays until mid January. She said she plans to return to Paris to finish out her studies until the end of May.
Pickels said she is not planning on coming home early due to the Paris attacks because of some of the difficulties changing her plans at this time. Besides, she want to remain in France to finish what she started.
“ I didn’t want to leave France because I’m here for a specific reason and that’s to further my education while seeing as much of the world as I can,” Pickels said. “I’m still determined to do just that.”