Catherine Reid Day of St. Paul was tucked into a Paris hotel room Nov. 14, trying without success to sleep, when her phone beeped. A friend texted to inquire about her safety. So it was that Reid Day — traveling with her husband, John Forde, and their daughter, Kara Forde — learned from friends across the ocean that Paris was a city under siege.
The three had arrived earlier in the day, strolled past Notre Dame and the Louvre, had a pleasant dinner and called it an early night. They were in their hotel by 9:30. The terrorist attacks at restaurants, a stadium and a concert venue began at 9:20.
“I kept thinking, ‘I can’t understand why there are so many sirens,’ ” she told me. After queries from friends began rolling in, she and her family turned on the television and began streaming Minnesota Public Radio.
The next morning, they pieced together how close the events were to their hotel. She and her daughter walked the few blocks to Place de la Republique, where a memorial to victims was just beginning to form. They found only one store open that Saturday. It was a bookstore — so fitting and moving, Reid Day said, “because education is the antidote to all of this.”
Claire Barnes Runquist, a recent graduate of Macalester College, is visiting Paris now. She described a city studded with police, military and private guards. Security is tight at major tourist attractions, and there are many guards checking bags and coats as people go into shops and cafes, she conveyed by message. She feels quite safe. “Visiting Paris is a great way of supporting the city and helping the recovery process,” she wrote.
As for Reid Day, a return to Paris is inevitable. “I feel so much respect for the French people, the culture, who they are and what they represent. … I feel like we’ll go back together.”
Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.