Sacramento State student in Paris: ‘City is not the same’

Sacramento State student in Paris: ‘City is not the same’

John Ferrannini

Update, Nov. 18 at 10:53 a.m.: The district has clarified that while there are Los Rios students studying in Europe this semester, none of them were in Paris on Friday.

Update, Nov. 16 at 10:50 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that “close to 20” Los Rios students are studying abroad this semester.

Michael Johnson was cooking dinner in his Paris apartment late Friday when he got a text from his sister in the United States. She warned him she heard there had been a shooting in Paris.

“It was not until 30 minutes later I realized the gravity of the situation,” said Johnson, a Sacramento State University student studying abroad.

Johnson is just one American college student who found himself in the middle of a city under siege from what the French government said are terrorists connected with the Islamic State.

The wave of bombings and mass shootings killed at least 129 people and left hundreds wounded, according to the BBC.

“Close to 20” Los Rios students are studying abroad this semester in Barcelona through Sacramento City College, according to Rick Brewer, SCC’s public information officer.

While it was initially stated by Brewer that an unidentified number of Los Rios students were visiting Paris on Friday, but were safe, it has since been clarified by J. Frank Malaret, the dean of Behavioral and Social Sciences at SCC, that no Los Rios students were in Paris.

“There were five Diablo Valley College students who are participating in the same (study abroad) program that had traveled to Paris for that weekend,” said Malaret. “The students were safe in their hotel and were flown back to Barcelona as soon as it became possible to do so. ”

“We heard a lot of sirens, and commotion throughout the night.” — Irina Gedarevich

Johnson, a French major, said that France has been “very on edge” since he arrived in Paris three months ago.

“Ever since Charlie Hebdo, there have been bombing and shooting threats almost every day,” said Johnson. “I was on a train to Nice in September and was stopped on the tracks because there was a shooter in the next station, and just last week my bus back from Brussels was stopped by the police and searched by bomb dogs.”

Johnson said that he has only left his apartment once since the attacks.

“Paris is very somber right now. We have been told to stay in our apartments and not go on the streets,” Johnson said. “I went grocery shopping earlier and the streets were eerily quiet. The city is not the same.”

In a blog post early Saturday, Johnson said he didn’t want the attack to feed prejudice against Muslims.

“I am scared that one religion as a whole will be the center of discussion, rather than the small and isolated group of extremists that carry out these heinous acts,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s apartment is in the 15th municipal district of Paris. Across the Seine River from the attack sites, he said that is about 15 minutes from where the preponderance of the targets were.

Irina Gedarevich, a Carmichael-native studying abroad with UC San Diego, said that she was “staying close to the center (of Paris), near the attacks.”

Gedarevich said she was arriving at her residence when she and her sister got messages on their phones.

“We heard a lot of sirens, and commotion throughout the night,”  Gedarevich said. “A friend of mine was out last night with her mom having dinner. They were not as close to the attacks, but I was still worried as I knew that they were out there.”

Gedarevich said that there is a “high police presence” in and around the city.

“Police are everywhere so we decided to come home early (Saturday),” Gedarevich said. “The police were armed and in groups. That kind of frightened us, as we figured that there must be a reason for that.”

Tessa DiMantova is also a Carmichael-native studying abroad with UC San Diego. She was sleeping at the time of the attacks.

“I had a long day, so I went to bed early. My roommate came and woke me up, and when I checked my phone, there was (sic) a ton of calls,” DiMantova said. “I called my mother and she told me that there had been an attack  it was 3:00 in the morning. My roommates had been in the area, stuck in a bar.”

Sacramento State University confirmed that all of their students studying in Paris are “safe and accounted for.”

At least one California college student, Nohemi Gonzalez of Cal State Long Beach, has been pronounced dead, according to KABC-TV.