In the wake of horrific terror attacks in Paris last week, travelers across the globe are inevitably questioning whether it’s safe to travel to the City of Light.
For some people, like 26-year-old Brooklyn resident Briana Feigon, a PR manager at e-commerce site Tictail, the decision to cancel her trip was a complicated one, as she’d planned to fly out this week for a business trip.
“I don’t think I canceled the trip out of fear. It was more out of respect for the community,” she said, noting that it would be “tone-deaf” for her to entertain influencers and business partners when France is still in a state of emergency. And even if she’d gone, it would have been tricky: Her Airbnb was to be right above Le Petit Cambodge, one of the restaurants that was targeted in the attacks that left 129 dead.
“It just felt like the wrong time to be doing business,” Feigon added.
Because of persisting threats from the Islamic State (or what Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders call Daesh), officials have warned American tourists to “maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security,” according to a release on the State Department’s website. Translation? It’s not unsafe to go, but tourists (and residents too) are urged to exercise extreme care and caution. And for good reason.
Residents in the Saint-Denis section of Paris were ordered to shelter in place this morning as a deadly raid was carried out on suspected terrorists, though the measure has since been lifted.
Still, most of Paris’s cultural institutions—including the Louvre, major department stores, and a Christmas market on the Champs Élysées—are open for business. The Arc de Triomphe and the Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis remained closed, the Paris Visitors Bureau reports. The city’s two major airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, have both reopened, though officials say to expect heavy delays.
And while the U.S. Embassy in Paris says it’s likely attacks could continue throughout Europe during the coming weeks and months, officials insist that vigilance—not panic—is the way to move forward.
But that’s left Americans with upcoming travel plans to Europe in the lurch, caught between the desire to go on their trips and the perceived threat of more attacks.
Laura Saldarriaga, a Miami resident who works in PR for a swimsuit line, said she’s been telling anyone who’ll listen about her New Year’s plans in Paris, filling them in on what restaurants she’d go to and the museums she’d visit. But the attacks made her fearful for her safety. “It’s looking like I’ll have to cancel my trip completely and, therefore, ruin my dreams,” she said. “The thought of flying out of any airport makes me want to hide under a rock, considering the severity of these threats ISIS has brought upon the world.”
But for others, the perceived threat doesn’t mean canceling plans. In fact, it’s strengthened the resolve of many travelers who spoke of the need to show true grit in the face of fear.
For Dustin Floyd, who works in an advertising agency in South Dakota, the idea of safety is skewed. “It’s good to be cautious when you travel, of course, but it’s important to keep things in perspective,” he said, noting that more than 380 people have been killed in the United States this year because of mass shootings.
“Tragedies can happen anywhere, anytime, and we have our fair share of them right here at home,” he said.
Kasia Dietz, an American handbag designer, has lived in Paris for the past six years and witnessed not only last Friday’s attacks but also the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City in 2001.
“None of it made any sense,” Dietz said of the massacre, which she said took place “minutes away” from her home in Paris. She likened the night of terror to living through 9/11, but she said in both cases, undergoing an international tragedy has a way of uniting people.
“After 9/11, we bonded together more tightly; we loved our city more deeply. We understood what was truly important in life, to live it fully with all your heart,” she said, adding that it’s her choice to live without fear, whether the event was 9/11, Charlie Hebdo, or this month’s horrific attacks.
For Feigon, the key is returning to her routines. “It’s important for us to continue living our lives as normal. I think they win if we stop everything and don’t carry on. It’s not fair to the city of Paris or anyone in the world who would be otherwise traveling to put your plans on hold,” she said, noting that now is not the time to take away tourist dollars and euros from the French capital.
“We cannot and should not live in fear,” Dietz added. “By doing so, we are giving up, losing the fight, disregarding all that we love about this beautiful city.”