Paris attacks hit home

Parisian born San Diego City College professor Philippe Patto shares his reactions and thoughts on the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks


A group of people make a combination peace sign and Eiffel Tower at the House of France in Balboa Park on Nov. 16 during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the attacks in Paris and Saint- Denis that occurred on Nov. 13. Photo credit: Richard Valentin

Angelica Wallingford

On the night of Nov. 13, one of the deadliest attacks on French soil since World War II occurred in multiple locations across Paris and Saint-Denis claiming more than 132 lives.

Meanwhile, 5,000 miles away, San Diego City College professor Philippe Patto was in a park with his husband walking their dog when he heard the news that his hometown was under attack.

“My husband had the phone and he got beeped for an alarm,” Patto said. “He checked and he told me the news and right away.”

Patto heard from a friend in France via email about the situation but had poor reception so he and his husband went back home.

“We had the headline and I was devastated when I heard,” Patto said. “I didn’t know what was happening.”

The attacks started at approximately 9:20 p.m. French time and lasted until 9:53 p.m.

The three suicide bombers detonated an explosive belts near a gate and on the outside of the Stade de France stadium during an international soccer game, according to Reuters. A fourth suicide bomber detonated another bomb in Le Comptoir Voltaire restaurant, killing himself and injuring one person.

In the midst of the several suicide bombers detonating their explosives, gunmen opened fire in the front of the A La Bonne Biere bar and the terrace of the La Belle Equipe restaurant, killing a total of five people and severely injuring 18 more, Reuters also reported.

The deadliest of the terror attacks happened during an Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan theater and concert hall where gunmen opened fire on the crowd killing 89 people and injuring many others.

Luckily, Patto had no family in the area during the attacks.

“When it happened, I didn’t think it would affect me this much and it really hit me hard, I’ve been trying to grasp what happened,” Patto said. “What shocked me the most was that it took place in France.”

French President Francois Hollande has called the terror attacks an “act of war” and places blame on the Islamic State (IS).

“France will be merciless in its response to the Islamic State militants,” Hollande said, according to the BBC. “(France) will use any means within the law … on every battleground here and abroad together with our allies.”

While the culprits responsible for act remain unknown, IS has taken credit for the attack stating that “eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles” attacked “carefully chosen” individuals, according to the BBC.

Patto feels that Hollande’s instant reaction to the attacks was expected and that as a leader Hollande wanted to show the French people that the government was doing something and that those responsible wouldn’t just get away with it.

“I’m just hopeful that we will not take drastic measures and go into war with somebody,” Patto said about the possibility of France entering into war. “We don’t even know where they are, we don’t even know who they are.”

Patto hopes that the end result will be a well balanced one and that Hollande will reach out to other countries so that attacks of this magnitude will not happen not only to the French people but anyone around the world.

The attacks sparked a great debate over admitting Syrian refugees not only in the United States but around the world. Since the attacks, Congress swiftly passed a bill that suspended the admittance of both Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. and 31 governors oppose accepting Syrian refugees into their states, according to CNN.

“That is fear,” Patto said “As long as we react out of fear we are not any different than the terrorists.”

“I think it’s wrong for the government to implement such drastic measures like that,” student Raul Flores said about congress’ decision. “You can’t place all the sins of the attackers onto the refugees, they can’t be condemned for what the attackers did.”

In contrast to the U.S., Hollande said that France will accept more than 30,000 Syrian refugees within the next two years.

Patto cites the outpouring of support from all around San Diego, such as the candlelight vigil at the House of France in Balboa Park, as something that is much needed during this situations for both the people of France and the Syrian refugees

“We should never act out of fear, we should react out of love and try to understand,” Patto commented. “I say to my students ‘there’s plenty of love in the world,’ it’s the thing we need right now, love not fear.”