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Paris attacks unite students in solidarity

Early Monday evening, nearly 200 students and faculty met outside Cooper hall and proceeded to march silently to the Student Memorial in remembrance of those affected by disasters over the weekend. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

The crowd grew silent. The cool November air that had been filled with the casual chatter of nearly 200 students and faculty members was suddenly empty as a moment of silence for those who lost their lives this weekend.

Out of solidarity for those in Paris and Beirut, among others, students participated in a silent march from Cooper hall to the Student Memorial on Monday.

Jeremy Lomax, a senior majoring in biology, arranged the event and gave a short speech when the group arrived at the memorial. 

“This march was first created specifically for the victims of the Paris attacks,” Lomax said. “But it soon became so much more. When you look around, you will see people who have all felt the same way you felt this past weekend.”

Students across lines of race and nationality were brought together, Lomax said, by the attacks in Paris and Beirut and the natural disaster in Japan.

Di Li, president of the International Student Association, also spoke at the end of the march. She said, as a student from China, she sees very clearly how international a campus USF is. 

According to the 2014-15 USF fact sheet, nearly 7 percent of the entire USF student population is made up of international students; and USF has study abroad programs in over 25 countries.

But it is those students abroad who are of concern in terms of the Paris situation. Currently, there are two students studying abroad in Paris.

Lou Marcus, USF professor emeritus in the College of the Arts, directs the USF Summer Art Program in Paris and has been living in the city with his wife for several months out of the year for many years.

After he received a call from the safety officer in the USF Study Abroad office, Marcus said he went online to educate himself about the incident.

“(My first reaction) was shock. It was very disturbing to hear about this,” he said. “I soon discovered that … two of the attack sites are just a few blocks from where we live.”

Not long after the attack, Marcus said he was determined to get out of his apartment and be out with the people. The next morning, he said he took a walk around his neighborhood, which was — not surprisingly — considerably emptier than usual. 

He recalled getting a seat among just a few other people  at a cafe that is normally standing room only at that point in the day.

“The mood of the city that morning, you could tell, was very … somber,” Marcus said.

Later, however, his neighborhood began to fill up again. 

“There’s traffic in the streets, parents out there with their kids.  There’s almost a sense of resistance that people are feeling,” he said. “We’re not going to be made afraid; we’re not going to succumb to fear.”

Marcus said there is a great sense of solidarity in the city now — the same solidarity Lomax hoped to increase across the USF campus with the silent march.

“The city will survive,” Marcus said. “It has survived a lot worse, when you think about World War II and the occupation.”

But the safety of the people of France was not his only concern. 

“I hope, certainly, that this doesn’t increase xenophobia sentiments that target the Muslim population.”

Ultimately, USF will continue to send students to Europe, as Marcus said he has received no indication from USF that such programs will be cancelled.

Students who are seriously concerned with the wellbeing of friends or family studying abroad with USF can contact USF Study Abroad, which has safety officers who can and do reach out to students in case of an emergency.