CC Flickr by VP photography.

This past Friday, a series of coordinated explosions and shootings in Paris suspected to be the work of terrorists working in conjunction with the Islamic State shocked the world and claimed the lives of over 100 people. Seven sites in France’s capital were targeted in the November 13 attacks. Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto, issued a statement two days after the attacks, confirming the safety of students and faculty registered in France with the university’s Safety Abroad Office.

Madeleine Taylor, a recent University of Toronto graduate, was in the outskirts of Paris at the time of the attacks. “I had planned to go out with a friend, but both of us were feeling lazy and tired that night and bailed a few hours earlier,” Taylor said, adding that she and her friend had gone out the week prior to a place close to one of the target areas.

“I’m very thankful to be safe but very aware that this could have happened anywhere in the world. Unfortunately this is not a problem unique to Paris, and cannot be solved by leaving, or refusing to live our lives,” Taylor said.

Rose Tornabene, a third-year U of T student on exchange in Paris, was in her apartment in the fifteenth arrondissement when she received a text from a friend asking if she was okay.

“She informed me that there had just been explosions and shootings in the city,” said Tornabene, adding that her mind quickly turned to questions. “How close was I to the attacks? How close was she? Were they still on-going? I texted her back telling her I was safe at home.”

“I turned my attention to the news. A wave of terror swept over me as I realized the severity of what was unfolding so close to me,” Tornabene explained. “I spent the night listening to the ringing of sirens, assuring my loved ones I was safe, and checking on the status of friends.”

Tornabene said that the days in Paris following the attacks have been marked with silence. “The streets, regardless of the heavy traffic, are silent. You can feel the change in the city; people are weary and tense,” she said.

Gertler expressed “shock and sadness” at the events in his statement, which also committed the institution in solidarity with the people of France. “The University of Toronto flag will be flown at half-mast on Monday, November 16, Tuesday, November 17, and Wednesday, November 18 in solidarity with the three days of official mourning declared by French president François Hollande – and in sympathy with all those mourning the lives taken in these terrible incidents.”

While details of the attacks are still emerging, Gertler stated that the university is keeping track of the situation as it changes. “We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as new information is received,” read a portion of the statement.

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