Paris attacks hit home for North Texans

North Texans who have friends and loved ones in Paris were left feeling helpless after Friday night’s attacks on the city.

Symbols of support and solidarity are showing up around the country. The Omni Hotel is one of several landmarks across the country now proudly displaying France’s flag as the tragedy has hit home with so many.

SMU says it has 11 students studying abroad in Paris. The university says it has heard from all of them, and they are all safe. 

UT Austin police are also asking any Texas student to contact them to check in.

TCU says it has no official program in Paris right now, but it is checking just to make sure there are no other students there.

However, Rebecca Colbourn, a TCU grad, is in Paris. She confirmed with her mother, who lives in Fort Worth, that she is safe in her apartment.

Colbourn was featured in TCU Magazine this past spring. She is based on Paris as she works for the research arm of Doctors Without Borders.

Colbourn’s parents say she sent follow-up texts describing the chaos and grief in Paris in Friday night, in busy sections of the city not far from where she lives.

Even so, her family says they support her in staying in Europe for her assignment. 

"She could have been in any of those places, and we are grateful to God that she was not,” said her mother, Sharon Colbourn. “I don't know if I would want to get on one of those trains in Europe right now. I would be scared to death. But you have to keep going. You can’t allow the forces of evil to stop us.”   

Her living room in North Texas may be nearly 5,000 miles away from Paris, but Elizabeth Seitz, a French culture and language expert, says her heart is breaking with the country she knows and loves.

“I’ve just been in shock,” she said. “It is a tragedy for France; it's a tragedy for the world.”

Seitz says as the horrifying images played over her TV, thoughts of her close friend, who’s staying around the corner from one of the attacks, ran through her head.

“I called her right away and she was in shock,” said Seitz. “She hadn't heard all the details about the hostages and the lockdown in the country.”  

Attending graduate school in France, Seitz has many friends and colleagues there.

“I’m searching through my mental rolodex about all the people I know who are traveling there at the moment, and just reaching out to see if they're ok,” said Seitz.  

The attacks are a terribly familiar gut punch.

“This does feel, in a way, a French 9/11 moment,” said Seitz. “It is not to the scale of what America experienced on 9/11, but the methodical, premeditated approach to just spreading death and terrorism in the Paris area tonight is similar.”

But Seitz believes the city that's a magnet for visitors around the world will recover.

“The French are strong,” said Seitz. “The French are incredibly strong.”  

Seitz says we all have to realize that this could happen anywhere at any time and that we have to be extremely vigilant about upholding freedom and democracy in the world right now.

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