Metro-East News

‘Very eerie’: Two Illinoisans describe aftermath of the Paris attacks


Andy Prendergast at a rally in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings.
Andy Prendergast at a rally in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

Two former Illinoisians were in France at the time of the terrorist attacks Friday. Here are their accounts:

Andy Predergast, formerly of Chicago, went to Knox College in Galesburg with Alex Enyart, of Belleville. Predergast is working on a post-doctoral fellowship, studying the role of sensory feedback on locomotion at l'Institut du cerveau et de la moelle epinere in Paris.

Q: Where were you?

A: I had actually just gotten home from work and one of my friends called to make sure I was OK. And then I turned on the news — at that point the BBC was saying 18 dead in maybe a bombing in the 11th arrondissement (an administrative district).

Q: How far away were you from the attacks?

A: Nothing is too far away in Paris, its very compact. I’m about a 15-minute walk from one of the attack sites, but there were apparently as many as seven sites. The stadium (Stade de France) that was attacked is north of me and the bars and concert venues (around rue de Charonne) are just south of me, so I’m sort of between the attacks I guess. One of my friends walked past bodies in the street on the way home; I'm not that close by comparison, I was lucky.

Q: What did you do?

A: I called my mom in Chicago right away; she always worries. I was here for the Charlie Hebdo shootings also, and I knew she’d be worried. Then it was just endless phone calls to make sure everyone was alright. After that I kind of hid in my apartment and watched the news all night. I went out at one point just to see what it was like, but it was so quiet in my neighborhood.

Q: What’s it like there now?

A: Extremely quiet. I live in the 19th arrondissement and usually there’s people in the streets. I have my window open a lot and there’s, I think, acting classes across the way. A lot of the times there’s music playing, people singing. Cigarette smoke comes in a lot through my windows. None of that today for sure. Very quiet. The local bodegas are indeed open, but people are mostly staying to themselves as far as I can tell. A lot of the big stuff is closed I guess, I haven’t even gone to check though. For a Friday or Saturday night, it’s very eerie.

Tim Hundsdorfer, formerly of Highland and brother of Belleville News-Democrat reporter Beth Hundsdorfer, and his wife, Susan, were in France on Friday.

Q: Where were you when the attacks happened?

A: In Cannes, on the southern coast. About 560 miles away from Paris.

Q: How did you find out something happened?

A: I got a Skype from our friend, Tina Chalk, who lives in the U.S., asking if we were OK.

Q: What did you do?

A: We went back to sleep.

Q: Are you planning on traveling to Paris soon?

A: As soon as I can. It’s the best city in the world, and if it can survive Romans, Vikings, Bismark and Nazis, it will survive this.