AUGUSTA — Chelsea Ray, an associate professor of French at the University of Maine at Augusta, considers the family that hosted her during a yearlong stay in Paris to be her family.

She was devastated to learn a number of the terrorist attacks were near that area of the city where her host family lives and where, in 1988 at the age of 16, she spent a year doing dissertation archival research.

Through Facebook she has been able to confirm her host family members are safe.

Ray said her “host uncle” Jean Ruaud, who has lived in Paris for decades, wrote that the night before the attacks he was walking in Paris on the banks of the Seine River and then near the Louvre and had told himself that Paris was the most beautiful city of cities that he knew and he was happy to live there.

“This morning I think that more than ever before,” he wrote Saturday following the attacks.

“In Madrid in 2014; 191 dead and 1,800 injured. London in 2005; 52 dead and 700 injured. These capital cities have increased security measures, buried their dead, treated their injuries and life has continued to be beautiful,” he wrote. “This is exactly what we need to do, we must not let us be terrorized or change our way of life; that’s what the terrorists want. Let’s continue to participate in the life of Paris, vibrant and happy, to drink on the terrace of cafes and go to concerts.”

By Saturday, however, Ray still hadn’t been able to find out if other friends of hers in Paris were safe. She hopes to find out soon that everyone she knows there is all right.

She worries that the magnitude of the violent attacks could change the city and country she loves. She noted the attacks come while the country was still recovering from the Charlie Hebdo violence in January.

“I am devastated to see such a blow strike, not just at the city itself but at the country of France,” Ray said. “I think it is hard for Americans to imagine how centralized the country of France is and the key role that Paris plays. I am completely heartbroken today, for I know how important Paris is to the well-being of France, and I fear the country I love is gone forever.”

Ray, a founder of the Maine French Heritage Language Program which has after-school programs in Augusta and Auburn, said despite the terrorist attacks, she does not plan to alter her own plans to return to Paris as soon as next spring for a half-year sabbatical there. She is not sure the people there will be the same as they were before the attacks.

“I believe in the human spirit with all my heart and mind, and yet, I have seen firsthand how tragedy changes a person and can change a culture,” she said. “I do hope that people there can find a way forward, but that can be difficult, especially if the violence is ongoing.”

A statement on the Facebook page and Twitter feed of Colby College, in Waterville, indicated Saturday all Colby students studying abroad in France are accounted for and safe.

 


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