By Casey Gale
Just before two administrators from the College of Business Administration (CBA) hopped on a plane to Paris on Jan. 7, two masked gunmen stormed the office of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 individuals. Though they realized they were entering the eye of the storm, for the Rider representatives it had to be business as usual.
In an effort to sustain the continued partnership for the joint degree program with the American Business School in Paris, as well as reach out to other prospective partner schools, Dr. Anne Carroll, interim dean of CBA, and John Farrell, assistant dean of CBA, left for France on the day of the terrorist attack. They arrived on the National Day of Mourning.
“It was very quiet in many respects in terms of people,” said Farrell. “But in fact, there were two or three brigades of police that were heading out of town because they were actually tracking [the terrorists].”
All was quiet that Thursday, other than armed personnel stationed outside their hotel. Friday, however, was a different story.
“There were sirens all day long,” said Carroll. It was the day the CBA representatives were meeting with the American Business School partners, while on the other side of town, a standoff between police and terrorists was taking place in a grocery store.
“When we met with our partners, they were constantly checking their phones for news updates,” she said. “It was a tense environment and people were on edge about what’s next, because now we know from the news that first it was Charlie Hebdo, and then the policewoman being killed, and then the grocery store, and they were wondering, ‘OK, what’s next?’ and feeling vulnerable to another attack.”
Farrell said coverage of the attacks was everywhere. “CNN was round the clock,” he said. “There was no other story on CNN. CNN International ran that the entire time.”
Even though fear had ensnared the country for a short time, both Farrell and Carroll agreed that they felt safe with the additional security measures.
“We were just doing some sightseeing at Notre Dame, and you would see pods of armed personnel. Six to 10 military personnel moving through the streets with automatic weapons, and they were really looking at people,” she said. “It wasn’t just them marching through the streets casually. They would be looking very diligently.”
Once the two suspected terrorists were killed Jan. 9, Farrell said he felt a shift in the climate of the city. “Then the focus was on national unity,” he said.
Though the two missed two local rallies in Paris and Lyon while en route to visit another school partner, The Centre d’Études Franco-Américain de Management, in Lyon, they said they still felt a sense of perseverance in the country.
“In conversations with our French partners, when we had lunch, they were like, ‘Hey, we’re going to do whatever we can so this doesn’t happen.’ It was refreshing in the sense that it was unifying to their spirit,” said Farrell.
By Casey Gale