Atlantans reach out to family, friends in Paris following attacks

Metro Atlantans with family and friends living in Paris reacted with fear and horror to the wave of terrorist attacks that killed scores of people and injured hundreds of others — some critically — Friday night.

French native Alexandre Proia was tuning into French TV on the internet Friday evening when news broke of the attacks. It was chaotic at first, reports of one or two bombs. Proia, a former dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet who now lives in Marietta, said he didn’t know what to make of it.

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

Proia, 52, said his brother and some cousins who still live in the Paris area were safe. He had feared his brother, who loves soccer, was attending the soccer game between France and Germany. Two explosions could be heard inside the stadium where the teams were playing.

He also has two friends who said they might be going to the Bataclan music venue that was attacked during a concert by an American rock band, and he hasn’t heard from them yet. They love heavy metal music.

“I’m very worried,” he said.

On Saturday, his brother told him of going outside, the streets mostly empty with those who ventured out looking at each other with concern, not knowing if they were carrying bombs around their waists.

Proia, who grew up in the neighborhood near the theater that was attacked, said he had been in New York City when the World Trade Centers were attacked.

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

He added, “I’m in fear and anger.”

Proia changed his Facebook picture to that of the version of the Statue of Liberty that’s in France, overlaid by the French flag. A choreographer now, Proia said he would dedicate his new piece to Paris.

‘You can’t run scared’

It was a late night of frantic phone calls and texts before Jean Railey, 59, of John’s Creek, learned her relatives in the area were okay.

Railey’s nephew, Marshall Makk, who is studying in Paris, was in a bar not far from the attacks. He was told he had to stay there and they pulled the big metal door down in front of the place, she said. He stayed in there for hours.

She first heard the news from her sister who called and told her that Marshall was right in the middle of it, less than a mile away.

“She was extremely scared,” Railey said.

On top of that, Railey’s daughter lives in Luxemburg, a few hours away from Paris, and her daughter’s French husband has relatives in the Paris area.

After, she texted with Marshall. He recalled that she had warned about the threat of Isis. He told her she was right.

She said, “America needs to wake up.”

She plans to go to stop in Paris in mid-December. She’s not changing her plans.

“You can’t run scared,” she said.

‘Feeling pretty shaken’

University of Georgia senior Leighton Rowell has about a dozen friends living in Paris.

The 21-year-old spent Saturday emailing, texting and checking Facebook for updates from friends. Rowell said she studied abroad in Paris last fall and revisited the city inMay.

“I’m still feeling pretty shaken,” she said. “I can visualize exactly what happened. I hung out in that area.”

She’s seen the stadium time and again taking the train to the airport.

One of her friends lives a few streets from the attacked area.

“He couldn’t go back to his apartment last night,” she said.

‘I’m still alive’

Marietta resident Jim Glover, 59, said he was in one of the Paris restaurants that was attacked just a couple of weeks ago.

“I’m still alive because I came home,” Glover said. “A few weeks later, it’s the place where people meet their deaths.”

Friday night he was at a party in Marietta, with people enjoying drinks and music. When news of the attacks arrived, everybody started reading stories on their cell phones.

“The more I read, the more horrified I was,” Glover said.

He has a cousin who is raising a family in Paris.

“I sent her a Facebook message right away. She’s OK,” he said.

‘The finest of France’

David Aferiat, 44, of Buckhead, is the president of the French-American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast and Atlanta.

He has friends in the Paris area, and his great-uncle lives just outside the city. Aferiat said on Saturday that he learned his friends and family were okay via text messages.

Aferiat said he goes to Paris about every two years, often bringing his young daughters. He saw a concert in the stadium years ago.

“We were just in Paris this summer, so it brings it very close,” he said.

It was difficult to share the news with his daughters, who are 11 and 8. But they felt better after he assured them that everyone was OK.

He added, “The finest of France come to America and the finest of Americans either visit France or have a great appreciation for it. There is an incredible bond. We really need to rally around this country, this ally.”