Nov. 14, 2015 Atlanta — Will Bogle (right) and his wife Rebecca Hill-Bogle talk about their experience in Paris, France after exiting customs in the international terminal of the Hartfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Saturday, November 14, 2015. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

Atlantans in Paris: Tension, fear, silence in the streets, and a very long walk

Will and Rebecca Bogle couldn’t find a cab. Their server at the restaurant had said the explosions were about 10 minutes away. Rebecca is six months pregnant, and they had no way back to the hotel.

Bogle’s cell signal was fading in and out. The couple from Macon, in Paris to celebrate Will’s 37th birthday, decided to make the two-mile walk to the U.S. Embassy, there to seek shelter and wait out the horror in the city.

Emergency vehicles screamed down the street as they walked. The couple didn’t know precisely what had happened or whether it was still happening. They finally made it to the embassy, safe at last on American soil.

The embassy wouldn’t let them in.

The American who met him at the gate said he was sorry, but Bogle and his wife couldn’t come in to shelter there. He recommended walking to a hotel.

“I was pretty disheartened that we weren’t allowed to get in, and my wife is six months pregnant, and we had to walk so long,” Bogle said. He also thought, “If you’re going to close, be closed when it is sunny outside and nobody needs you.”

The State Department responded to inquiries from the AJC by email on Sunday morning. Here's the response, sent by embassy spokesman Alexander Daniels:

On Friday evening, November 13th, the U.S. Embassy in Paris went into a heightened security posture as soon as we got word of the terrorist attacks. It is standard procedure at our embassy, and all U.S. Embassies worldwide, to not offer shelter to American citizens in times of security threats precisely because the embassies themselves could easily be prime targets. We do everything we can to help American citizens when they ask for assistance; our dedicated consular officials have handled more than 3,000 inquiries from American citizens since the attacks at all hours of the day or night.
We regret that Ms. Hill-Bogle and her husband experienced such a difficult evening, as did thousands of others in Paris that night. It was a traumatic night for many, one that we will never forget. We encourage Americans abroad to consult our embassy web site or the State Department web site for further information on the security situation in the country they are in.

The Bogles — Rebecca goes by Hill-Bogle — told their story after arriving in Atlanta from Paris Saturday afternoon. After Bogle navigated their way back to their hotel by using the Paris Metro, the couple had packed and left town. He said Delta worked with him to change to an earlier flight. Not 24 hours after they’d walked up to the embassy in Paris, they were back in Atlanta.

‘This is where I need to be’

Haley Temple loves the 10th Arrondissement in Paris. It’s a bohemian district and the tourists don’t usually venture there. Mostly locals in their 20s or early 30s. She calls it authentic Parisian nightlife, a very relaxed vibe.

Of course, the tourists were there on Saturday, Temple said, looking at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, where at least 12 people died.

Most of the restaurants, bars and stores reopened on Saturday, but the usual crowd was staying away, she said. Shell-shocked.

“It’s not the usual Saturday night,” Temple told the AJC by phone. “A lot quieter.”

She said that, for some reason, she decided not to go out with friends Friday night and instead went for a swim.

At 26, Temple is a University of Georgia graduate who is teaching at a Jewish school in Paris and also working on her Ph.d. in psychoanalysis. Back home in Hartwell, she said, her parents are imploring her to end her nearly five-year sojourn in Paris and come home to Georgia.

Her reply: Non, merci.

“I’ve become an adult here. I’ve grown to love this place,” Temple said. “This is where I need to be. You have to stay — standing in the face of fear.”

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The talking heads seem to have picked up a new term this news cycle: “soft targets” — they mean us. Those soft targets are people like you and me, folks out on a Friday night, victimized for having dinner or catching a show… . It could have been me, it could have been anyone, and it scares me, because these acts signify that there are no more rules.

— From an essay by Atlanta writer and blogger Jess Graves, thelovelist.net.

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‘No different than being in Israel’

Friday night, Kimberly Swartz and her husband Jonathan, from Sandy Springs, were dining on the other side of the Seine, about two miles from the Bataclan concert hall. Word began to spread about the attacks, and then the restaurant staff told diners that they should finish up and leave.

On Saturday, Swartz said life was slowly returning to streets, but there were stark exceptions: signature attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe were closed.

“It is weird to see so many stores and restaurants closed on a Saturday night,” said Swartz, who had come to Paris to see a since-canceled U2 concert.

With the heavy police presence on the streets, Swartz said the atmosphere was “no different than being in Israel on any day.”

‘No religion condones violence, especially Islam’

Dr. Naseer A. Humayun, a spokesman for the 400-member Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Georgia Chapter, on Saturday called the attacks “horrific acts.”

“We strongly condemn them,” he said. “These people are terrorists and should be considered as such. No religion condones violence, especially Islam. These people are using the name of Islam for their own political agenda.”

‘It’s kind of like World War III’

About 20 people stood outside the French consulate in Buckhead Saturday evening, in front of an impromptu memorial that included flowers, photos and a peace sign.

Genette Ashby-Beach of Atlanta said she had studied and taught in France.

“I’ve had a long love of France,” she said. “This is horrific. We need to find a way to address the world’s problems. We need to find peace in Syria, Iraq and Israel. Until we do, this will continue.”

She added, “It’s kind of like World War III. But it’s not like the war our parents fought. There’s no defined location. It pops up all over.”

Bill and Mary Moon of Stone Mountain lived in France for 14 years and had three children born there.

“We feel very, very close to this,” Bill Moon said, standing in front of the memorial, above which flew the flags of France, the U.S. and Georgia, all at half-staff. “This is not about Muslims, it’s about terrorism.”

Parisian in Marietta: ‘We’re all baffled by it’

Now living in Marietta, Alexandre Proia was a dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet and then the New York City Ballet. He said he came to metro Atlanta to create his own dance project.

Proia grew up in a neighborhood near the Bataclan music hall, passing it every day as a child.

He noted that he was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

“It brought me back to that early morning,” he said. “The shock. I thought, ‘Oh wow, here we go again.’ I’m in fear and anger.”

Amid the chaos of Friday night, Proia spoke to a lot of friends and relatives in Paris.

“We are all baffled by it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s political, financial or just madmen.”

On Saturday his brother told him about going outside. Paris seemed empty. People looked at each other with concern, not knowing who might be carrying a bomb around their waist.

‘It was a little bit surreal’

Atlantan John Marra was at a restaurant in central Paris Friday night when everyone at the table 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. 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, but it was a surreal feeling seeing things unfold around you when we were in the center of this beautiful city.”

Gingrich attracts some backlash

Former House speaker and former Georgian Newt Gingrich tweeted late Friday: “Imagine a theater with 10 or 15 citizens with concealed carry permits. We live in an age when evil men have to be killed by good people.”

Condemnations came fast and furious, but his is a common argument that is often voiced after mass shootings. Conservative talk-show host Erick Erickson seemed at least mildly offended. He tweeted: "I gotta say, it does feel a little icky to turn this attack in Paris into a debate on how France should adopt our 2nd amendment."

Notes on the days to come

  • RALLY TODAY: The French consulate in Atlanta plans a “solidarity rally” at 11:30 a.m. Sunday in the lobby of its buildling in Buckhead. The rally is to take place in the lobby of the Buckhead Tower at Lenox Square, on Peachtree Road. The notice said packs and handbags were not permitted in the lobby; it also urged people to take public transit to the rally.
  • CLIMATE CONFERENCE: A major conference on climate change scheduled for Nov. 30 in Paris will proceed as planned. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed confirmed Saturday night that he still intends to take part. The conference is expected to attract dozens of heads of state and as many as 40,000 attendees. 
  • PUBLIC SAFETY: Atlanta police will be “vigilant and visible” and are stepping up patrols around shopping centers, theaters and public gatherings. Hartsfield-Jackson is “in a state of hyper-vigilance.” Georgia’s Emergency Management Agency said much the same on Saturday. GEMA director Jim Butterworth said there have been specific threats. “Any action that we’re taking is out of an abundance of caution,” he said.
  • AIR TRAVEL: Delta Air Lines said it is passengers flying to or from Paris, Toulouse, Nice and several other French destinations the option to alter their flying plans without change fees. A Delta spokesman said the number of travelers opting for the change was minimal. Delta’s flights to and from Paris operated normally on Saturday, although morning flights from Paris were delayed by extra security checks.

     

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Staff writers Craig Schneider, Janel Davis, Katie Leslie and Shelia Poole contributed to this article.

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