After Paris terrorist attacks, members of UC Berkeley community among those in shock

paris - Grace Cha courtesy
Grace Cha/Courtesy

On Friday night, UC Berkeley junior Grace Cha was preparing to head out with friends onto the Parisian streets.

Their plans were abruptly halted when Cha read a Facebook post from a fellow student that jolted her. Shootings had occurred in Paris’ 11th District. One of them was at a music venue called Bataclan, down the street from Cha’s apartment.

“I rushed to the balcony, just to see what was happening,” said Cha, who described seeing ambulances and police cars rush past her building while streets around hers were closed off by law enforcement.

Cha is one of several UC Berkeley undergraduates studying abroad this semester in Paris, where Islamic State terrorists coordinated multiple bombings and shootings Friday night — killing more than 120 people, including a California State University student, and leaving the global community in shock.

There are currently 40 students studying in France through the UC Education Abroad Program, with 23 students in Paris, all of whom have been accounted for and resumed classes Monday, according to study abroad director Darin Menlove.

But even as classes start up again, the students are coping with anxiety and confusion after the attacks, still fearing for their safety. Others in the UC Berkeley community, those farther away from the attacks, felt concern for loved ones who reside in France’s capital.

UC Berkeley freshman Daphne Sajor reached out to her cousin, a California Lutheran University student studying in Paris who was in Stade de France, the French National stadium, when it was targeted with explosions.

“The bombing occurred literally right where he was,” Sajor said, before describing her family’s restlessness as they attempted to get in touch with her cousin, who did not have phone service in the stadium. “It was really emotional for me.”

Her cousin, Mondesi Bruno Sajor, recounted how the scene of sport-inspired delight transformed into one of chaos after the match played by the French and German national teams, which was attended by French President Francois Hollande.

Even when two loud bangs outside the stadium were heard by the crowd early in the game, attendees continued to watch the players, unaware, until word of the attacks across Paris spread after the game ended. Then, according to Bruno Sajor, panic followed.

As he and some friends were walking back to a Metro station, another bomb exploded outside the stadium.

“It was total chaos, basically. I was running for my life. People were getting trampled by other people. People were just finding safety,” said Bruno Sajor, who was separated from his friends but eventually made his way home to find messages on his phone from worried friends and family.

There, he also learned of the magnitude of the other attacks in the city, including shootings in restaurants and the concert hall, Bataclan, in the 11th District.

“That shook me a lot,” Bruno Sajor said of the 11th District shootings. “That’s where all the college students hang out.”

The morning after the attacks, Bruno Sajor and Cha both said they could feel the pain of the grieving city, seeing its empty streets patrolled by military personnel.

“It wasn’t Paris,” Bruno Sajor said. “We call ourselves the city of light. Those first 24 hours, it was the city of darkness.”

But they also said they saw signs of solidarity and resilience. On Monday, a moment of silence was observed throughout the city. Cha said Parisians and visitors alike assembled at the sites of the attacks to mourn, filling the space with flowers.

“There was some sort of glimmer of light coming into Paris today, at least, with everybody being united,” Bruno Sajor said.

On campus, the French department and the French Studies Program will hold an assembly Wednesday at noon to remember the victims.

Contact Maxwell Jenkins-Goetz at [email protected].