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'Bad Things Don't Happen Here': An American Student Witness To The Terror in Toulouse

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Carly Loper, 16, a Patch student blogger from North Penn High School currently studying in France, is right in the heart of the terrorism situation in Toulouse. She provided her account of what she's seen/experienced over the past few days. Thanks to the Lansdale, PA Patch site for sharing this piece:

Monday morning I woke up as usual and went through my morning routine of getting ready for school. Having no classes until 10 a.m., I was the last to leave the apartment, and I walked to school without taking notice of any abnormalities.

It wasn't until I arrived at school that I noticed something was strange: nobody was outside. I began thinking that today was a holiday that I had forgotten about. I became even more confused when I wasn't allowed to enter school without showing my identification card. Inside, I found the crowd of students who were missing from the previous courtyard scene, and it was here all my curiosities were explained.

At 8:15 a.m. that morning a gunman went to a Jewish school in Joliment, only a few metro stops from my house, and shot a Rabbi and three young students, two of whom were the teacher's kids. The killer was able to escape the scene before the police arrived, and the knowledge of his location was limited to the streets of Toulouse. (Later that day it was reported he was seen at the metro Esquirol, the metro stop I walk past every day to get to school).

Everyone was stressed and worried. Toulouse is a smaller city where everyone knows everyone. It's charming and peaceful. Bad things don't happen here. No one has guns, and the police don't even carry them as a matter of routine. Many people at school, including students in my class, knew the victims. Tears were shed. Continuing normally with classes was nearly impossible.

I received a text from my host-brother that morning warning me to go directly home after school and not hang around the city like I normally would. Even at school, no one was allowed to leave for lunch or to hang out in the courtyard. The school issued strict orders to stay inside.

I did exactly that, and as I was leaving school to walk home, there were policemen stationed outside the building and teachers were at the entrances advising students to quickly leave the school grounds and head directly home. I saw policemen, now armed with guns, at almost every corner stopping anyone on a scooter.

All through that first night, I received a lot of calls, texts, emails and messages from friends and family, who were checking in on us and making sure everything was OK. Although we talk regularly on Skype, my mother phoned France for only the second time in seven months (first time was last month when we were late returning from the Alps and she couldn't reach me on Skype).

Of course, with this being a big deal and events like this rarely ever taking place in Toulouse, the news appeared all over the papers, radio and television, not only in France, but in the United States as well. That's how my mother and friends at home found out. I feel obliged to say thank you everyone for your concern, it's always nice to know there's people out there who care about you, and yes, I am fine.

I never really felt all that scared, except when I walked in the streets. It was rather eerie, as usually when I finish school the streets and cafes are crowded with people, especially as the weather gets warmer, but these past few days there's been no one. Walking to and from school is nerve-rackingly uncomfortable.

Based on the attack, and another shooting of military soldiers in France, connections were made and it was assumed to be the same guy. According to news articles his intentions were terroristic and there's talk about connections to Al Qaeda; however, what's evident is that he targeted minorities.

At my school, there's a large population of Jewish students, and we're only a three minute walk from the capital. So naturally, there was the worry of the possibility of suffering another incident, and police were stationed everywhere.

This morning though--two days after the shooting--there are reports of his whereabouts, and the police know of his location (the standoff is in an apartment building directly across the street where a friend of mine lives; gas and electric has been cut off on her street.) This whole awful situation will hopefully soon be behind us.

Of course the damage he's done and the families he's hurt will be irreversible, and everyone's sending prayers and thoughts for the families suffering. At school on Tuesday at 11 a.m. there was a moment of silence for those lost, and it's been revealed in the daily news that the bodies have been sent to Israel.

The French author André Malraux wrote: "La tragédie de la mort est en ceci qu'elle transforme la vie en destin. Ne pleurez pas celle que vous avez perdue ; au contraire, réjouissez de l'avoir connue. Le malheur de l'avoir perdu, ne doit pas nous faire oublier le bonheur de l'avoir connu."

Translation:
"The tragedy of death is what transforms life into destiny. Don't cry over what you have lost; on the contrary, rejoice in the chance of having known it. The misfortune of losing something doesn't mean we have to forget the happiness of once having had it."