For one East sophomore, the Paris attacks hit close to home
By Lauren Sorensen, Editor in Chief
When East sophomore Erica Bhatti came home from school last Friday, her mother told her to call her dad right away.
At first Bhatti was nervous because she didn’t know if her dad was sick or what was going on. But when she learned that Paris, her father’s home, had become a war zone, she felt the same pang of fear experienced by the world in the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks.
Bhatti’s father Tahir Bhatti has lived in Paris since he was 15. Bhatti herself was born there and she lived in Paris for a couple of years when she was young. “I know that place like the back of my hand. I love Paris because it’s different and you know the world when you live in a different country like that,” Bhatti said.
At around 2 a.m. Paris time, Bhatti called her father. “It was a very short phone call because he was traumatized by what had just happened. I did not really understand what he was saying, so he called me again the next morning and he told me everything,” Bhatti said.
Friday night Bhatti’s father was in the Place de la République (a city square) with a friend eating dinner at a restaurant. The establishment was right next to another restaurant where 10 people were killed in the attacks.
“When he heard something, he and his friend were trying to run to his car so that they could get home safe, and his friend was actually shot in the leg while they were running,” Bhatti said. Her father was able to carry his friend to the car and drive him to the hospital where he later passed away.
When Bhatti’s father returned home, “he was weeping, his friend had just died, and this terrible massacre happened right in front of his eyes,” Bhatti said.
“He was just traumatized, he is still traumatized today because he said ‘this is the place where I call home and to see all of these terrorists come in and basically destroy it is horrible’,” Bhatti said.
In addition to the friend Bhatti’s father was having dinner with, two more of his very close friends were killed in the attacks Friday night.
Bhatti also attempted to email a friend that lives in Paris. They normally talk every day, but she has not yet responded to the email, and Bhatti still does not know whether her friend is safe.
“I’ve just been super stressed out because I just want to go and see if my dad is okay because I don’t know if he is just saying that he is safe to make me feel better,” Bhatti said.
Bhatti last visited Paris in 2010. Bhatti said that the attack makes her want to return to see the state of Paris but her mother does not really feel that it is safe for her to return.
Bhatti remembers both when she lived in Paris and when she visited, and thinks about all of the crowded areas around the city. “You are on the street of the Arc de Triomphe and you are in these huge, densely populated areas, everyone thinks of a terrorist thing to happen there.”
“For this to happen so abruptly, it is terrifying and my dad was there,” Bhatti said.
Bhatti’s father is Muslim and he is from Pakistan. “He obviously does not think of Middle Eastern people as terrorists and we don’t know who these people are still.”
“He is crying because he lost three of his friends but he is just thinking of it as, is this going to start a war, is this going to start a World War III, or is this just something that is going to be a daily reoccurrence? He is really, really devastated about this,” Bhatti said.
“For this to happen so abruptly, it is terrifying and my dad was there.”
– Erica Bhatti, East sophomore
“I really hope that the United States learns from this in a way of, I guess, standing our ground because with this whole immigration problem that is happening. I just think that terrorists could be walking in our country soon and I just hope that we know how to be safe, but that we don’t think that every Middle Eastern person is a terrorist,” Bhatti said.
Bhatti wants the school to focus on teaching peace to students. She said that the French students wearing blue, white and red on Friday for “Paix for Paris” (Peace for Paris) Day is a step towards this, but more needs to be done.
“I think that talking about peace would put in people’s minds that people are affected by this and we don’t know when it is going to happen so just be ready, which is terrible to say but in this day and age it is true,” Bhatti said.
“I am trying to deal with this because I usually talk to my dad twice a week but since this happened we make sure to call each other every day just for me to hear his voice because I have not seen him in a couple of years. It really helps that I get to talk to him every day but I am trying to move on and I’m trying to think that Paris is okay,” Bhatti said.
(Image: Tahir Bhatti with his daughters Alecia and baby Erica. Photograph courtesy of Erica Bhatti.)