Josie Lucero, a junior journalism student at Colorado State, had the opportunity to study abroad through International Studies Abroad in Paris, France last semester, at the Institut Catholique de Paris.
During the last 10 days of her trip, the unexpected happened. The satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, located in Paris, was attacked by two terrorists, which resulted in the death of 11 people Jan. 7. In an interview with Lucero, she shared her experience and what she witnessed after the attack.
When did you go to France?
I left on Sept. 14 to go to France, and I was there for four months. January was when the attack happened. Almost everyone was in the program had left to go home before Christmas, but I was one of the few people who stayed longer. I wanted to spend as much time as I possibly could there, and instead I got another story on my hands, which is crazy to think about.
What happened on the day of the attack?
I started the day normally. I got up, and went to French class, which I had everyday from 9 a.m. to noon. I came back home, and was laying down with no idea of what just happened, and my phone, which gets USA Today updates, started going off. I skimmed the first headline, and it said something about an attack in France. Once I registered what it was saying, I was shocked – and I immediately looked up where Charlie Hebdo was located. Thankfully, Charlie Hebdo is located across the river Seine from me, which is about an hour walk from me, at least. It was still close enough to feel the impact.
What did you do after the attack happened?
I called my mom after learning of the attack, and talking to her helped me to process everything that had happened. I stayed at home after that. I knew better than to go onto the metro and continue my day.
How did ISA react?
Our program called us, and told us to be vigilant and careful and to not ride the metro at busier times. I stayed in my apartment the entire day, and followed The Guardian for breaking news.
What was your first response?
When I heard that journalists had been attacked, that scared the living hell out of me, because I’m a journalism major. For me, the first thing that ran through my head was, ‘in 10 years, something like this could happen to me.’ I also honestly wasn’t surprised when I learned (of the attack) because the French are harsh on the Muslim community.
What happened the next day?
I went to school, but the whole city was on the highest level of alert. Everyone had to have their I.D. to get in, which made me feel safer.
(The next day) we all got out of class, and met in this giant courtyard where all of the French staff and students came together for a minute of silence. The weirdest part about that, though, was the weather seemed to know what was going on, because it started pouring rain. The mood was sad, but everyone knew that they had to be strong and move forward.
Were you traumatized?
No, it was just so bizarre to live through. Even walking around Paris afterward, you saw so many policemen with these huge guns everywhere. The one thing that was so bizarre was the fact that the whole city was in complete terror after the attack. I have never seen a culture that came together in such a way after experiencing an attack.
What occurred on the following days?
By that Saturday, I saw Je suis Charlie signs everywhere. I tried to go to one of the protests, but there were so many people there. I got off of the metro and stood on a park bench to see how many people were there, and the crowd went on forever. On Sunday, there was a protest with over a million people there.
What do you think Je suis Charlie meant to the people of France?
Je suis Charlie means ‘I am Charlie.’ I think it meant ‘we are Charlie’ and ‘we stand with these families in this time of mourning.’ The French are an extremely tight knit culture, and are very exclusive.
How did this affect or change you as a person?
As a journalism major, it made me double think everything, especially what you can publish and what you can’t. It made me think about my future and my responsibility as a journalist. It was a different world for me while I was there, and now I’m more aware and I follow international news more closely.
Collegian Reporter Clarissa Davies can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DaviesClarissa.