At Philly vigil, sorrow for Paris victims

At Philly vigil, sorrow for Paris victims
Sam Newhouse

An ocean away from Paris, aftershocks of the terrorist attacks on Friday are being felt by locals with connections to France.

Helene Loeb, 50, a native Frenchwoman who now lives in the Philadelphia area, was one of those paying tribute at a vigil at the French International School of Philadelphia in Bala Cynwyd.

For Loeb, the terrorists attacks hit close to home. Her young niece, who lives in Paris, had several friends at the Bataclan concert hall band Eagles of Death Metal were playing when terrorists opened fire. Two of her niece’s friends were killed.

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One of the young women survived by playing dead, and when she saw a terrorist run out of ammunition and reload his gun, “ran over bodies” to escape, Loeb recounted.

“There have been terrorist attacks before. Clearly, this one was a lot larger,” Loeb said. “What I am worried about is just the escalation right now. They want the maximum number of casualties.”

The coordinated terror attacks on Friday in Paris have been described as the worst attacks on France since World War II.

The French International School of Philadelphia, a program for kids aged 3 to 8, is open to French, international, and American students.

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“It’s for solidarity. It’s a moment for people to be together,” said Kathy Kotchick, co-head of the school, of the reason for organizing the vigil.

Catherine Kosman, co-head of the school and a native Frenchwoman, said the country will pull through.

“France will pull through. It is a strong country, a country of strong ideals,” she said.

But she said the attacks left her “concerned and afraid.”

“It’s something you are not thinking is going to happen, it does happen. You worry about your friends and your family as you hear the numbers.”

The vigil drew members of the public who wanted to pay tribute to the tragic events in France as well.

“It’s something that helps you cope with the enormity of what just happened,” said Betsy Voye, of Chestnut Hill, of why she attended the vigil on Sunday night.

“The way everything unfolded — that it was young people out enjoying themselves — we could all connect with that it was every day activities, being interrupted tragically, by such horrific violence … We all want to show our support and respect.”

Another vigil is planned for UPenn’s campus at 5:30 at the College Green.