In the span of 24 hours, the streets of Paris had become deserted.
Steve and Sandy Spencer had traveled from their home in Greenwood to visit their granddaughter, Stephanie, and Kevin Kruse, her husband, and their great-grandchildren last week in France. They planned to spend the last few days of their trip in Paris, seeing original pieces of famous artwork and eating pastries.
On their second day in the city, the Spencers’ first impressions of Paris were rocked by a string of terrorist attacks on Friday night. Just the day before, they had been experiencing the delicious food that France is famous for, historic cathedrals that are hundreds of years old and carefully curated museums. Everywhere they went was crowded with people, said Steve Spencer, president of Greenwood’s Economic Development Commission.
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But less than 24 hours later, the city’s 80-foot-wide sidewalks were empty after more than eight suicide bombers and shooters stormed restaurants, a theater and soccer stadium. The attacks killed more than 125 people, and injured at least 350 others.
Just that morning, the Spencers went to the Louvre art museum while the Kruses took their 3- and 5-year-old daughters to Disneyland Paris, Steve Spencer said. That night, the Kruses went out to dinner, and the Spencers offered to baby-sit, Steve Spencer said.
They were not close enough to witness any of the shootings, but could hear the police sirens and chaos after the attacks began, Steve Spencer said. As soon as the Kruses realized what was going on, they ran back to their hotel, Steve Spencer said. Everyone in their family was safe.
“You really pray a lot, and think about your family, and you want to get away,” Steve Spencer said.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen next. I feel very sorry for the Parisians because they’re an easy target.”
The Spencers’ granddaughter, Stephanie (Spencer) Kruse, a 2003 graduate of Center Grove High School, and grandson-in-law, Kevin Kruse, are living in Lyon, France, about five hours south of Paris. The Kruses moved to France in September as part of a short-term medical fellowship, and are returning to the United States in late December.
Before they left for home Sunday, Steve Spencer talked to Stephanie and Kevin Kruse about ending their fellowship early and coming back to the United States.
“We’re apprehensive. We both felt that they have a decision to make to cut this fellowship training short,” Steve Spencer said.
The Spencers expected a lengthy delay before flying out of Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris’ main airport, but instead there was no issue with their flight home, Steve Spencer said. Once the airplane took off, he and the other 300 Americans on his flight were relieved, he said.
“I unfortunately do not feel that I would take the risk of going back to France,” Steve Spencer said. “If I get the feeling that we’ve got terrorism under control, I’d be glad to go back. For now, we’re going to stick to countries that don’t have this problem.”
Until the attacks occurred, Steve Spencer said he had never felt unsafe during their trip. One major difference in security that he spotted was at the train stations before the terrorists attacks took place. Instead of seeing security guards or even police officers, French train stations had soldiers with automatic weapons strapped across their chest, he said.
Now that the Spencers are back, Steve Spencer is eager to see how France and the rest of the world respond to the attacks, he said.
“No one should take the French lightly,” Steve Spencer said. “They are fierce fighters.”