We had missed our train back home. That Thursday night, roughly 20 of us students had decided to go see the newest James Bond movie in the next town over. But the movie didn’t let out until late and we missed the midnight train by a mere 30 seconds. So we were stuck in Mannheim for another hour until the next train came through. I wasn’t going to sit around and mope about the fact that we were stuck. No, I went and got some Döner kebab with two of my friends. We spent the hour stuffing our faces with a midnight snack and talking about their early train to Paris the next morning. I vividly remember telling them that I wished they didn’t have to go and could stay back in Heidelberg and hang with us the whole weekend. I knew they couldn’t change their plans, but in the moment I thought it was just another weekend trip in our year studying abroad. When we all finally made it back home, I hugged the two of them goodbye and wished them a good weekend.

The next night, everything changed.

It was a Friday night and I, along with my closest friends, had just left our favorite bar in Heidelberg after a beer. The skies had opened up and a light drizzle was falling. One of my friends stopped dead in his tracks and told us news that nobody wanted to hear.

“Guys, there’s been a bombing in Paris. Terrorists are attacking Paris and lots of people are dead.”

Just like that, all of us froze in place. Our minds were all thinking the same thing. Were our friends, who had traveled to Paris just that morning, victims of this horrendous terrorist attack?

We all frantically tried to get ahold of the people we knew in Paris. The city was only three hours away by train and we had no idea what was going on. None of our calls or messages were going through and we hadn’t heard anything from anybody in Paris.

The minutes ticked on at an agonizingly slow pace.

Finally, my phone buzzed and I got a message saying that they were all safe inside their AirBNB. Thank the Lord. We all uttered a sigh of relief that our friends were alive, but our relief soon turned to fear. How many people were killed? Who was behind the attacks? Were there going to be more attacks across Europe? How are our friends going to get back to Germany?

 

The rest of that night was a blur. Our group tried to settle down and not worry but it soon became apparent that we needed to call it quits for the night. I headed back up to the house, where everybody was watching live reporting on the attacks. I soon learned that one of the targets had been a soccer game of France versus Germany. Did that mean that the terrorists also wanted to target Germany? I kept asking myself questions that had no answers. I wasn’t going to get the answers; I just had to keep praying for everybody affected by the bombings.

The next day was inundated by questions from concerned family members and social media posts reporting on the situation. As I waded through the cacophony of stories on my Facebook page, I was comforted to see the outpouring of support from people worldwide. We aren’t just citizens of our countries, we are also world citizens and it’s our job to put a stop to the violence and terrorism that is plaguing the world we live in.

Religion is not violent and isn’t promoting violence against other. It is sick, twisted individuals who are the perpetrators of such inhumane acts. The leaders of these violent regimes are the scum of the earth and don’t even deserve to be called human beings. The lives that they took in Paris are not just a number. Each of them was a person with a story. They each had families that loved them. They had goals, loves, ambitions.

But in one split second, a violent individual snatched away their life because they wanted to and had the ability to. Dozens of people were murdered because they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have happened to anybody. It could have been me. It could have been you.

That night, my friends arrived safely at our house in Germany. We were all so emotional when we finally got to see them again because we understood the gravity of the situation. I am so blessed that my friends returned home safely. Because for so many people, they will never get to see their friends again. They were so fortunate to be in the right place, at the right time. I can’t imagine what would have happened if any of my friends had been a victim of those terrorist attacks.

But it can happen to any of us.

The Paris attacks have put the world on high alert. Nobody knows when the next attack will be, and we all hope that we aren’t there when it happens. It’s an absolutely terrifying thought that even the simplest of things, such as eating out at a restaurant, could be a death sentence to us.

It is a difficult time to be studying in Europe. The refugee crisis has been going on for months and is creating tensions across the continent. These recent terrorist attacks have only exacerbated the tension and it can definitely be felt. Regardless, the situations that I face on a daily basis as I study abroad make me yearn for home even more. But as citizens of the world, it is our duty to promote peace and love for all. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it nearly impossible? Yes. The world won’t be able to change in a day, but we can start by learning to change ourselves. Think of the impact you’re leaving on the world and do whatever you can to make sure it’s a good one.

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