The phone rang incessantly as Esther Ollivier ’18 and her mother drove home. Her father was calling from Paris. After they picked up, her father delivered horrific news. The phone cut off. Scared and speechless, they hurried back home.
“He told us what had happened, that there was an attack,” Ollivier said of the night of Nov. 13, when terrorists attacked multiple places in the city. “The phone disconnected because everyone was trying to call France.”
Her father, in Paris for a business trip, was merely blocks away from the tragedy. The location of the suicide bombing near McDonald’s could be seen from his office window.
“He wanted to go to the soccer stadium, but then he had work that night,” she said. “We’re so fortunate he didn’t end up going.”
Her best friend, who was at the soccer game, called and reassured her that she was safe while telling her exactly what had happened.
Her twin brother Dylan had been watching the game on TV at their home in Los Angeles when he heard the bombs.
“I kind of panicked because I couldn’t get any news on the incident, as it hadn’t been reported. I was scared for a couple hours as I thought that my dad was in the stadium,” he said.
He remembers feeling strange, not being able to comprehend what had happened.
Upon realizing what had actually occurred, how the happiness in the Paris she had known had diminished, she said she was at a loss for words. She remembers thinking, “How can something like this just happen?”
Although her parents are both from Paris, Ollivier was born in Los Angeles. When she and her brother were six months old, their family moved to Paris, the City of Lights. After spending most of their life there, they moved back to Los Angeles in seventh grade due to their parents’ screenwriting jobs. Nevertheless, she said Paris will always feel like home to her.
“[Paris] was just a wonderful place to be. It has really good food, for one, and an overall happy atmosphere, except for Friday of course,” she said. “Paris is just a beautiful city in itself, everyone just admires it.”
Her best friend Samantha Seneviratne immediately contacted her after hearing about the bombing.
“Obviously these attacks had an effect on Esther seeing as she is French, has family [in France], and loves the country,” said Seneviratne. “She was outraged and disturbed as to why some people think that it’s acceptable to take innocent lives.”
Even weeks after the attacks, Ollivier could feel the profound effect the events have had on her family, now especially careful about traveling and inclined to stay close to home for the holidays.
“I feel like it really affected my family since they were so close to it, especially my dad, since he was there and he was super close [to the attacks],” she said.
According to her, since the attacks felt so personal, she was torn. Her feelings at the time were unreal and indescribable, she said.
“Since [France] is so far away, the only thing that you can do is to call and make sure everyone’s okay,” she explained. “My family is spread out all over France, and this made me realize how important it is to be a family together. I was scared not just for the people that it happened to, but for the people of France.”