A KU student feared she would be shot by terrorists after being caught in a stampede of terrified people in central Paris less than 48 hours after the jihadi massacre.
Esme Mary Pryor, 21, was having a drink in a restaurant before a false alarm kicked in her instincts and she “just ran” alongside panicked crowds worth of 100 people fleeing the memorial site in Place de la Republique, just two days after 129 victims were slaughtered in Paris.
Ms. Pryor, a graphic design student, said: “Everyone was stampeding to get out of the way, there was glass smashed everywhere, people were crying. I think people thought they were going to die. Some people jumped in the canal to swim to the other side and I remember thinking maybe I should do that too. It just makes you realise what the people in the bataclan went through.”
“It felt very real… We thought there was a gunman there, I just felt so stupid for leaving the house and getting a beer outside when it was still dangerous.”
Shortly after scared Parisians deserted the open streets of Paris, two French law enforcement officials confirmed that the false alarm was triggered by firecrackers that were let off near the area.
Ms. Pryor said: “I was at a restaurant when one [false alarm] happened, we were eating outside and we heard gunshots – it was actually firecrackers or something stupid – and everyone started running, I did not pick up any of my stuff I just ran, we hid for a bit behind a wall and then we saw the armed police come and we started walking back. My phone was on the table before the false alarm, when I went back my phone was gone.
“I think I am just really jumpy, like every loud noise in a public place is making me jump. I think I have been thinking about it a lot, and what happened on Sunday when we all had to go and hide and it is just disbelief that it happened”.
Another Kingston student, Julieth ZuRe, 21, said she “felt very scared” after being woken up by police cars and helicopters attempting to capture the alleged Paris attacks mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in the early hours of the following Wednesday morning.
The international business with French student was in earshot of the raid, seven miles north of the attack zones in the town of Saint-Denis.
Ms. ZuRe said: “I thought it was a dream, but then I saw the news and I started to get bit anxious and a bit scared again.”
Kingston student Omar Gilbert, 21, who is studying in Paris, travelled to Rome on the night of the Friday attacks, said he was “terrified” to return to the France capital and considered moving back to England.
“We have only been here for a few months, but Paris was like home and the areas attacked were areas we went to regularly. My thoughts were with my friends that I have made so far still in Paris fearing for their safety, I mean none of us could sleep that night.
“At the beginning going back to Paris definitely terrified me, I mean you just never expect anything like this to happen. The borders were shut and we did not actually think we could go back and I almost made plans to go back to England.” Mr. Gilbert, a marketing and communications and advertising student said.
Kingston University’s European and study abroad team were active in ensuring the safety of KU students following the attacks in Paris on November 13, offering all Erasmus students further support and advice.
A Kingston University spokesperson said: “Our partner universities in France are also supporting Kingston University students by offering wellbeing and counselling services. Kingston University’s own student wellbeing team is on hand to provide emotional support to any student studying abroad including confidential advice and counselling on request.”