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Paris attacked: fugitive slips by police

Paris attacked: fugitive slips by police

CC study abroad student safe after weekend trip

Katherine Bailey, a University of Northern Iowa junior and 2013 Charles City High School alumna, didn’t initially think much of the police cars rushing down the road on Friday night.

Bailey, who was in Paris for a weekend getaway, did not know the city was the target of six coordinated terrorist attacks, attributed by some international officials as the work of Islamist radicals. She and her friends were on their way back to an AirBnB apartment, already planning an early start to their Saturday at the Louvre Museum.

Beginning at 9:20 p.m., and within a half-hour, attackers worked in three synchronized teams while wearing matching suicide vests and spraying gunfire into restaurants, a concert hall and the national soccer stadium, the Associated Press reported Sunday night. As of Sunday, Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, was the only American fatality identified among the 189 victims.

Bailey is currently studying abroad at the Florence University of the Arts in Italy, and had been planning the Paris trip with friends since mid-September, she said. She was tucked away in her AirBnB unit when a friend’s mom messaged them between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Friday, asking if the three were OK.

“First we had heard that there was a shooting and an explosion,” Bailey said on Sunday, a few hours after returning to Florence. “Being optimistic we said it was possible that it had just been a gas leak and an unfortunate incident, and then more reports continued to come in, and the worse the reports got.”

Bailey and her friends stayed up until 3:15 a.m. watching reports come in and communicating with university faculty in Italy and Iowa. They were a 20-minute walk away from the Bataclan concert hall, which saw the biggest attack from the night and at least 89 immediate casualties. Unable to get through phone lines to the U.S. Embassy, all they could do was stay in contact with faculty, who continued to regularly check in on the students, and stay inside.

“We didn't really know what we would wake up to, and didn't really want to fall asleep, but the stress of the situation just exhausts you to the point where you can't stay awake any longer,” Bailey said. “It seems ridiculous to say that I was scared, stressed, and anxious, but we didn't know what was going to happen.”

On the advice of their schools and the U.S. government, Bailey and her friends spent their planned Saturday in Paris indoors, leaving once to walk to a corner grocery store for food. They arrived five hours early to the airport for their Sunday flight back to Florence, the same flight they booked a month and a half ago.

Now back at her university, it’s been hard to comprehend the weekend events, Bailey said.

“I've never wanted to be with my family more. Today was just about going through the motions and doing what we needed to do,” she said. “This weekend doesn't really feel real. I just spent a weekend in Paris where some terrible history was made and I just can't really wrap my head around the fact that it's real.”

By Kate Hayden [email protected]

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