Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Paris Attacks Hit Very Close to Home

Being an academic, one is a global citizen. We have collaborators around the world, students from different countries, and we travel extensively.

When events occur even thousands of miles away that shock us, horrify us, and stun us, as happened last Friday (11/13/15) in the form of terrorist attacks in Paris, the response is to reach out and to make sure that those that we know and care about are safe.

And that is what I have been doing - emailing my collaborators and colleagues in Paris. The response from most has been quick and filled with Thank You's for thinking of us.

This afternoon I also managed to get a response from one of my undergraduate advisees who is on an exchange program in Paris. He was at the stadium last Friday that was the site of one of the terrorist attacks. He is safe and so are his friends. He also expressed gratitude for my concern.  I am shaking from relief.

Another former student with whom I have been corresponding on the refugee crisis and migration networks,  who was in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class last spring, and was on a German exchange program with UMass Amherst, wrote me today a long letter. He had been at the Eiffel Tower with a friend when the attacks started last Friday. He had started receiving alarming text messages. In his message to me he described the evening of horror and trying to make it back to his hotel with the public transport shutdown:

That meant that we had to walk home several miles, which was a very unnerving experience when you know that there is an unknown number of people with assault rifles somewhere out there. On our way to the hotel, we were the only people left on the streets, most of the bars were empty except for the waiters and a few guests gathering round the bar to watch the news on the screens. Every now and then we got passed by police cars who were rushing to the sites of the attacks, all you could hear were the sirens everywhere. It was pretty intense.

 He made it back safely to Germany today (Sunday).

One of my wonderful collaborators who hosted me, in part, when I was in Paris the last time (4 years ago) to give a keynote talk at the NetGCoop conference, and with whom I have worked on fish supply chains and network economics, wrote me a message today describing the sounds of gunfire outside his apartment.  A similar message came from another dear friend, with whom I was a Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, one decade ago!

I was to have been in Paris less than two months ago for a habilitation defense (this is a degree higher than a PhD and I have blogged about this). Due to another crazy travel schedule this Fall (you don't turn down an invitation from Amazon in Seattle or invitations in Chicago, Boston, or going to the INFORMS conference in Philly), going to Europe while still covering your classes can be a challenge. Hence, I Skyped for the defense and it was a great experience.

I recently heard from one of the habilitation committee members in France, who wrote:

Thank you so much Anna for your mail and words. Personally I am safe but the situation is very surreal, extremely heavy and terribly sad. I hope things will get better with time.

He concluded his message to me with: 

May everyone be in peace.