Travelers arriving in Atlanta from Paris on Saturday afternoon described extraordinary long lines in Paris to get through security.
Claudio Merloni, who lives in Paris and was arriving in Atlanta for business, said it took more than two hours to go through a security line that usually takes him 10 minutes. Merloni said there was nobody on the streets in Paris when he left for the airport today.
“It’s two attacks, both in France in the same year,” he said. “You start to feel really targeted.”
In the midst of the chaos that erupted in Paris Friday night, Rebecca Hill-Bogle started to wonder how she and her husband, Will Bogle, were going to get back home to Georgia.
They were in Paris to celebrate Will’s birthday and were having dinner when Will looked at his phone and realized something was going on. The server at their restaurant told them they were about 10 minutes away from one of the deadly explosions that occurred during Friday night’s wave of terrorist attacks in the heart of the city.
“We saw a lot of police and ambulances; they were scurrying through the streets,” Will Bogle said.
The Macon couple tried to get a cab to get back to their hotel, but all the taxis were full.
Hill-Bogle is six months pregnant and she was starting to panic. They decided to walk two miles to the U.S. Embassy, hoping they could take shelter there.
But, her husband said, they were turned away.
“I was pretty disheartened that we weren’t allowed to get in,” he said.
Originally from New York, Bogle said he was there during 9/11. “I remember the energy in the city when that happened, and this was very reminiscent of that,” he said.
Bogle said he focused on keeping his wife calm, since she was terrified. They had no idea whether more attacks were coming.
“I’m from Georgia,” Hill-Bogle said, explaining her panic. “We haven’t had anything like this happen.”
After getting back to the hotel, they were able to get an earlier flight home and landed in Atlanta just before noon Saturday.
“It was pretty traumatic,” Bogle said.
By the time they walked out of baggage claim, they were just glad to be home.
“I’m so grateful,” Hill-Bogle said.
'It was eerie'
Atlantan John Marra was in Paris on business Friday night when the attacks happened. He was with a group at a restaurant in central Paris when everyone started getting text messages.
“During a very quiet dinner, we heard lots of sirens, so it became very apparent, really quickly what was happening,” he said.
When they left the restaurant, they saw police, roads barricaded and heard lots of sirens. “They were very tense moments,” he said.
It took an hour before they were eventually able to get an Uber back to their hotel.
“It was a little bit surreal,” he said. “We were not in the middle of it, so we weren’t in immediate danger," he said. "But it was a surreal feeling seeing things unfold around you when we were in the center of this beautiful city.”
They had an early flight and went through the city on their way to the airport.
“The streets of Paris were completely empty,” Marra said. “It was eerie and it was dark.”
Praveen Rajendran, who lives in Atlanta, was in Paris on business Friday.
He was in his hotel, near the airport, when the attacks took place. After getting a couple of text messages from friends, he went online and found out what had happened.
“It's inhumane; it’s very bad," he said. "Nothing like that should happen anywhere."
He had one of the first flights out of Paris on Saturday, and he said the atmosphere was grim at the airport.
“You could not see a smile on anyone’s face,” he said.
'I didn't sleep well'
Christelle Orzan waited outside of baggage claim at the Atlanta airport on Saturday for her parents, who were arriving from Paris for a visit.
Her parents were one of the last to walk through the gates from the flight. They had been looking for their luggage, which apparently was lost. But they weren’t too worried about that: they had made it out of France safely.
Orzan had been monitoring the news last night, hearing that borders were closed and wondering what that would mean for travel.
“I didn’t sleep well all night,” Orzan said. “I wasn’t even sure they were going to be able to make it for their flight.”