For Emilia Calderon and her American friends studying abroad in Paris, the soccer match Friday night between France and Germany was supposed to be a time to celebrate life in one of the world’s most beautiful and majestic cities.

Instead, the evening turned into a terrifying nightmare for the Bates College junior after terrorists detonated three bombs outside the Stade de France soccer stadium and slaughtered scores of innocent civilians at a concert hall, restaurants, cafes and bars throughout the City of Light.

“All of a sudden, they have taken our freedom from us,” Calderon, who is from Colombia, said of the terrorists. “They took that freedom away and our ability to enjoy life and to enjoy Paris.”

Calderon, who has been living in Paris with a host family since early September, said she was beginning to feel comfortable in her new surroundings. Just last week, she and her friends had talked about how much they love Paris.

Now they fear going outside their homes to a market or a restaurant. The life they had grown accustomed to has been changed forever.

“Everyone is still sad and shocked. They can’t believe it happened,” Calderon said Sunday night in a telephone interview from her home in Paris.

Calderon has been studying French culture and language through Middlebury College’s Schools Abroad program. She is scheduled to return to the United States next month.

According to Middlebury College spokeswoman Sarah Ray, Calderon is one of seven students with Maine connections enrolled in the Vermont college’s Schools Abroad program.

Ray said five of those students attend Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Calderon is the only Bates College student. The seventh student is from Maine, but attends Amherst College in Massachusetts. Only two of the seven students are studying in Paris.

Calderon went to Friday’s soccer match with two of her best friends and one of their host family’s sons. About 20 minutes into the game, Calderon said she heard a loud boom. That sound was followed a few minutes later by a second boom, but oddly enough few people in the stadium seemed to notice the sound.

“No one reacted. Everyone was really into the game,” said the 21-year-old Calderon, who is majoring in French and psychology at the liberal arts college in Lewiston.

As the game progressed, she started receiving text messages from one of her teachers, warning of the explosions and asking if she were safe. Calderon said she was confused because no one left the game and the security staff took no action to evacuate the stadium.

“The players kept playing until the very last second,” Calderon said.

What she later learned is that the explosions occurred just outside the gate through which she and her friends had entered the stadium.

By the time the game ended, the stadium had been locked down. Spectators, including Calderon and her friends, were directed onto the playing field. As midnight approached, she and her friends were allowed to set out on foot for their homes from the stadium, which is located on the outskirts of Paris.

A police officer advised them not to take the Paris Metro, the city’s subway system, because of the possibility of more attacks.

“It wasn’t the safest neighborhood, but we had no other options,” Calderon said. “It was scary, but we knew we needed to get home.”

The three women and young man finally hailed a taxi, whose driver took them home.

Once Calderon got home, she closed the door and started to cry.

“My parents kept telling me that our guardian angels were watching over us that night,” Calderon said. “They couldn’t believe how lucky we were.”

Unlike her host family, Calderon has been reluctant to go outside. She admires the bravery of the native Parisians, who continue to go about their daily business.

“The Parisians are very strong. No one is going to change the way they live,” Calderon said.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]


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