AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France A day after filling bars to watch repeated footage of Tuesday”s terrorist attacks, Americans students studying abroad remained stunned from reports that seemed more like an action movie than actual events. Meanwhile, French government heightened security around American institutions.
“I”m so far removed from it but yet it still feels like this innate anger, I mean, it”s my home,” said LSA junior Ian Burkow, who is studying abroad for a semester with Northern Illinois University.
News of the massive relief efforts and blood donations left students here feeling far away and unable to help.
Part of the difficulty for the students abroad is that they feel helpless during this profoundly difficult time, said Laird Boswell, the University”s Aix-en-Provence study abroad program director.
The attack that has so profoundly shocked Americans has stunned France as well. Throughout the day, French citizens approached random Americans to express their sympathy and hope that that their families were not harmed.
But the French peoples” condolences have hardly been enough to console the students who wish they were home with their families.
Because of telephone service interruptions, Kerry Leisher, a junior at Gettysburg College, was unable to call the United States while she worried about her father, who was scheduled to fly into New York the day of the attack
“I just want to be with my family,” she said, adding that her father fortunately not been harmed.
Burkow said that he feels emotionally alienated in a foreign country.
“I was so irritable yesterday being around French people I just wanted to be around Americans,” he said.
Aix-en-Provence, a college town that has between 500 and 600 Americans studying here each year, has opened up crisis centers offering phone services for U.S. students, tourists, and residents with ties to New York and Washington. Psychologists are also available to make phone calls to the United States.
Aix-en-Provence has the largest population of Americans in southern France, said Yves Lerouge, public relations director for the mayor.
About 100 people have used the facilities since the crisis center opened Tuesday, Lerouge said. The center also has a television where Americans can come listen to the latest updates.
Flags hanging at the Hotel de Ville, or City Hall, were tied with black ribbon to symbolize the city and country”s support and compassion for the United States.
The French government has heightened security around the country by implementing the Vigipirate, mobilizing the military police and army giving them the authority to stop anyone in order to search for weapons. Official buildings including the post office have barriers and security guards on watch outside.
American educational institutions have heightened security with barriers and guards checking the identification against a list of any person who enters the building.
The University of Michigan conducts its French study-abroad program in Aix-en-Provence along with the University of Wisconsin and Indiana University.
While Americans students have said that for the most part they feel secure in France, Boswell is stressing that students be careful and keep a low profile. Traveling around France or Europe has been discouraged and students have been warned to avoid tourist areas and other places that Americans tend to frequent.
Students were also asked for their contact information, which was given to the American consulate in Marseille.
Synagogues in the area have also been secured.
The city does not expect to have any problems but precautions are necessary, Lerouge said, adding that Aix-en-Provence would not be a likely target for a terrorist attack in France.
“The scary thing was not being able to phone the United States,” said Dominique Revel, a junior from UCLA.
“It”s very unreal still. I don”t know of its because I”m abroad or the magnitude of this event.”
“I”m not terrified for my life or anything, but things have changed. If we wanted to go home right now, we couldn”t,” said Erin Blake, a junior from Denison University.