ASHE COUNTY-People around the globe – including here in Ashe County – held their breath Friday night as simultaneous terrorist attacks unfolded in Paris, France.
That included Philippe Robert, a West Jefferson resident with more than a dozen family members scattered across the Paris-metropolitan area.
“You see what’s happening and you just have to wait for a phone call or some kind of message that people are safe,” Robert, who grew up in Lorient on the French coast, said. “And that’s tough when you’re seeing it happen on TV from here.”
In Robert’s case, all his friends and family turned out to be safe amid the deadliest violence to hit France since the end of World War II. Coordinated gun-and-suicide bombing attacks across Paris left 129 people dead and 352 injured, according to the Associated Press.
Attacks included a soccer stadium and a concert hall where an American rock band was performing.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and French President Francois Hollande vowed his country would wage “merciless” war on the terrorist group, as investigators raced to track down their accomplices and uncover possible links to networks in Belgium and Syria on Saturday.
The White House said afterward that President Barack Obama was briefed on cooperation with the French on intelligence sharing and military action against the Islamic State group, according to the AP.
Obama earlier called the attacks on Paris “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians” and vowed to do whatever it takes to help bring the perpetrators to justice. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama called the attacks a “heartbreaking situation” and an “attack on all of humanity,” according to the AP.
And people throughout the French country were staying close to home, Robert said.
“My sister, who lives in Brittany, said nobody is on the streets,” Robert said. “It’s quiet right now as everybody takes this in.”
Robert, who was born in Algeria and grew up along the French coast before moving to the United States in 1978 and finding work as a commercial diver, believes conflict and terrorism are nothing new to mainland Europe. But faltering economies, declining birthrates and an influx of immigrants from developing countries have given rise to more tension, he said.
“The idea, the mindset, is that if you can sneak into Europe and cause havoc the whole world is going to see it, and everybody is going to be scared,” Robert said. “And this is something, unfortunately, that Europe has lived with forever.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.