Nohemi Gonzalez was a 23-year-old design student from Cal State Long Beach who was completing an exchange program in Paris, France. She was one of the victims of the tragic attacks in Paris last Friday, and the first confirmed American victim.
The attacks shook the world and alarmed world leaders. As an institution that houses international students, some of the Portland State community shared their insights on the tragedy:
“There seems to be a lot of unrest in the world recently,” said Amy Bell, a PSU senior studying biology. “All my condolences go to victims in the attack and their families.”
“It’s very sad, but I also find it disturbing that our interest in these tragedies rises suddenly when a developed international city like Paris is affected,” said an art history student who chose to be anonymous. “This doesn’t minimize the loss, of course.”
“It happened so suddenly,” said Sam Taylor, a member of student security at the PSU library. “Our problems don’t exist in one place, but are global.”
The attack was carried out on Friday in multiple locations in France. The assault began at 9:20 p.m. with a suicide bomber outside the gates of the soccer stadium Stade de France, located in the outskirts of Paris, where the national exhibition match for French and German soccer was being held. The French president, Francois Hollande, was in attendance. Simultaneously, suicide bombings and shootings occurred at several popular French restaurants in Paris. Most casualties occurred, however, at the concert hall Bataclan. The current death toll is at 129 lives with more than 350 people injured.
This is the deadliest attack in Europe since the 2004 train bombing in Madrid. President Hollande has declared a state of emergency in France.
“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France,” announced Hollande, according to the New York Times. Although not verified yet, President Hollande blames the Daesh (the acknowledged replacement name for the Islamic State) for the attack: “France would act within the law but with all the necessary means, and on all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies.”
There were three teams of attackers, armed with heavy weaponry and suicide vests, who carried out the deadly scheme. All assailants were killed in the attack. The attackers included a man with a Syrian passport, who possibly entered Europe in the recent surge of immigrants from Syria, and another native of a town outside Paris. The investigation is ongoing in Belgium and Germany as well; it is currently unclear how international and local intelligence agencies missed detecting such a lethal plan.
The scene in Paris has changed dramatically since the attack. President Hollande has declared three days of mourning in France. Public transportation has been halted, and public institutions—including schools, museums, libraries, pools and markets—are closed. According to Al Jazeera, the French authorities have banned public demonstrations until Nov. 19, fearing the risk of large gatherings.
Affected individuals inside and outside of Paris are finding solidarity through social media. More than 48,000 people have signed up for the “A candle at every single window” campaign on Facebook to commemorate victims. Pope Francis and other world leaders have expressed their mourning.
“There is no justification for such things, neither religious nor human,” Pope Francis said, according to the New York Times. “This is not human.”
Assuming that the terrorist attacks were conducted by ISIS, as many claim, speculation can be made regarding the reason for the attack.
Friday’s attack may be an extension of the organized shooting at Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper office, in January. France has participated in military action against ISIS in Syria and has attacked its oil operations. ISIS may have conducted this act of retaliation, as it has done in the bombing of a Shiite district of Beirut and the crash of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt. This may also have fulfilled the terrorist group’s ambition to be considered a global organization.
While the United States administration once held the opinion that such attacks were part of a “lone-wolf narrative”—that ISIS terror attacks were localized—this is no longer the case.
“The emphasis on lone wolves was all part of the wishful thinking that ISIS was purely a local phenomenon that could be contained to Syria and Iraq,” said Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown, in the New York Times.
This attack in Paris questions the terrorist capacity of ISIS and calls for a reassessment of their threat on a global scale.