Twelve university students arrived in Paris almost a day after the tragic shooting at an office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French magazine. The students are staying roughly a mile away from the attacked office.
Gunmen stormed the office Jan. 7 and killed at least 12 people – two police officers and 10 journalists – according to npr.org. After the shooting, the gunmen escaped in a black vehicle, resulting in a massive manhunt and heightened security in Paris. One man involved in the shooting turned himself in while authorities are still searching for the other two suspects.
The magazine – translated as “Charlie Weekly” based on the cartoon character Charlie Brown – is no stranger to threats. After publishing an image of the Prophet Muhammad, the office was firebombed in 2011.
Senior Caitlin Trainer, trip leader, said the team is in good spirits despite the tragedy.
“I for sure went through a period of second guessing our trip once I found out about the shooting, but upon affirmation from our Paris site coordinators that it’s completely safe to travel, I made the decision to stick with the plan,” she said.
The team faced a 24-hour flight delay in Indianapolis due to icy weather and found out about the shooting while staying at the airport.
“Spent the night in the Indy airport last night and woke up to news of a shooting in Paris,” Trainer posted on Facebook. “Please pray for the victims and their families as well for the shooters to be found. My team and I are headed to Paris today and sticking with the plan. Please pray for our safety and for few airport complications. Our God is faithful and He is in control. Thanks for joining us as the body of Christ in this journey.”
Freshman Hannah Barrett said the flight delay was a “God thing.”
“We ended up not being in Paris when the shootings happened,” she said.
Since arriving in Paris, Barrett said she has felt safe in the city.
“There are a lot of police officers out and about in the city, but it’s really not bad at all,” she said. “Everyone is still going about their days just like normal. I haven’t been nervous at all. They really have it under control and are making people feel safe.”
The team consists of students Joshua Walker, Melanie Clemens, Conner Knight, Larissa Walker, Larkayla Mosley, Hannah Barrett, Sam Barrett, Maggie Gilliam, Lauren Frischman, Alyssa Eddy, Constance Goelz and Caitlin Trainer.
Sophomore Sam Barrett said the team has been told they are safe in Paris.
“They have told us several times to not be worried because the attack was made on specific cartoonists of a specific newspaper,” he said. “I think the only way we have been directly affected is seeing more armed officers than usual.”
The shootings have prompted a debate over free speech in the world. President Barack Obama called the incident a threat against free speech in the world, according to the New York Times. Several media outlets and cartoonists have expressed their support for the magazine while “#JeSuisCharlie” – translated as “I am Charlie” – was trending on Twitter.
The mission trip team will do homeless food ministry, young adult discipleship, English teaching, prayer walking and host an art exposition by Mosley. The team will return Jan. 20.