Area college students in Paris during attacks recount what happened

Posted at 8:11 PM, Nov 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-16 20:11:32-05

Newport News, Va. - Cole Fairbanks found himself just a few streets away from the deadly attacks in Paris on Friday night.

Speaking to NewsChannel 3 via Skype Monday, he said the reality of what happened and how close he was to it all, is sinking in more now that a couple days have past.

"It's just really overwhelming.  I think the immediate day after wasn't as rough.  I think it's the following days .... You feel lucky but also troubled by the whole event," Fairbanks said.

A senior at Christopher Newport University and a Williamsburg native, Fairbanks is studying abroad in Spain this semester.  He had traveled to Paris for the weekend to visit friends.

They were just leaving a restaurant when they started getting word of the shootings.  They went to a friend's apartment nearby at first, then later went back outside to see what was going on.

"The first thing we saw was a young couple and they were pretty shaken up.  The girl had one of those golden tin foil blankets on and the guy was just covered in blood," Fairbanks said.

Even then, he didn't realize just how many victims there were.

William and Mary graduate student Hannah Bailey was just a couple miles away at the time.

She traveled to Paris just two weeks ago - the start of a semester abroad doing research at the National Archives.

Friday, she was out with friends at a small music venue when news of the attacks a couple miles away started to spread.

Unable to get a taxi, they quickly walked to her friends' home, and that's where they began to realize the magnitude of what was unfolding.

Through the sadness and grief people are now dealing with, Bailey says she's also seen some uplifting moments.

"People have been turned away from giving blood here because the outpouring was such that they couldn't take all the people that wanted to help," she told NewsChannel 3.  She said many have also opened their doors to strangers needing a place to stay.

Monday, Bailey says she and others returned to work and school where it was a surprisingly calm day after all the chaos.

"There's definitely sadness here but there's also a sense that the best way to resist what happened, the best way to push back against what happened is to live your life normally, and that's what I see French people doing each and every day out there and it's really, that's been really encouraging," Bailey said.