By the title, you may be wondering where this is going to lead…
Let’s just say that my trip to France did teach me some lessons even some I thought I already knew. Namely, those lessons about crowds and sports in Europe…
We had a great day that particular day in Paris. We saw such sights as these:
And so on…
So, after eating supper at a very tasty Italian restaurant,
we decided to head off to see one more sight before going bed. I had made the suggestion to see the Eiffel Tower at night since I’d been unable to see it the last time I was in Paris. The two students Frances and Cassie who were with me readily agreed. We just simply wanted to take some pictures and see how beautiful it would be! Innocent idea normally. However, I as the graduate student TA who’s supposed to be “all-wise and all-knowing” in how to keep students out of danger *cough, cough*, made two errors.1. I knew there was a soccer game. However, I didn’t know who was playing and frankly, didn’t care. Problem! 2. I vaguely remember hearing that they sometimes show the soccer game on a big screen at the Eiffel Tower. However, I didn’t make the connection that they would be showing this soccer game that particular night. Problem!
Can you see where this might be going? Maybe?
We jumped on the metro and headed the long way to the Eiffel Tower. I’d chosen to get off at the palace across from it figuring it would have the better view. It normally would have but for the crowd of people there.
When we arrived at the stop, there were French policemen everywhere. Frances and I both had a bad feeling, but we figured it was just because there were so many people there. We waited a little while to get through to the street. When we got to the street and to the palace area, we stopped. Things were not looking good at all.
There were not so nice looking people everywhere. I thought I heard two bangs which sounded like fireworks (probably not fireworks, Stacey). We saw the Eiffel Tower at night and it was gorgeous, but there was not a safe way to take pictures. We decided we needed to leave, but there was not an easy way to get out. There was the sound of breaking bottles everywhere and the crowd was cheering and yelling. I couldn’t tell if the French had won or lost. Suddenly there was a rush of people. Frances, Cassie, and I grabbed each other’s hands and got up against a snack stand to keep from getting swept away.
I was getting scared. We thought we would stand a little out of the way and let people leave, so maybe we could find an out to leave when there were fewer people. Suddenly, there was an even larger rush of people. This rush was so large we were pushed up against the snack stand. People were running and coughing and we started coughing too. There was a mist going over the crowd.
I looked over and saw cops with shields over their faces much like the ones you see in pictures from war protests in the sixties. They were throwing tear gas bombs! There was a cloud of tear gas going over the crowd. Our eyes were burning and we were coughing. It was miserable as we ran holding hands trying the best we could to run back to the metro stop. I felt sorry for a dad who was trying to pull his two small children out of it all to get them to the metro.
The crowd was so large pushing through the metro stop that the police turned off the necessity for tickets to get through the turnstiles in order for people to get through quickly. We made it back to the hotel safely and told other students to stay away. Don’t know that I’ve ever been so glad to make it back to safety and to a water bottle!
I will indeed say that I learned quite a lesson through it all. I felt horrible for having not thought it through well enough. I was just glad and thankful the Lord got us out of there. I prayed as we ran that He would help us get out. It could have been so much worse. We weren’t hurt or in prison, just only hurting from the effects of tear gas. We found out when we got back that France had lost to Spain, one of their rivals. And, well, Europeans can get rather violent over these games. Yes, the Eiffel Tower was probably the last place we wanted to be.
The other students were jealous!?
They couldn’t believe how out of the entire group, we three (the most unlikely) were the ones that got caught in the soccer riot. “So not fair!” said one student “I wanted to be tear gassed!”
So, I can add one experience to my list that I never ever expected to add.
Stacey has been tear-gassed in a soccer riot.
So, there you have it. One experience from my adventures abroad. I waited until I arrived home safely to tell this story for the peace of mind of my family and friends at home. Most of them after being thankful that I’m safe then find it quite hilarious. I have to admit, I’ve had quite a laugh out of it too though the terror I felt during the entire experience never has left my memory.
Yes, Paris. It was wonderful. So wonderful, it even brought me to tears! *snort!*
Right, right, lame…
More stories of adventures to come!