Three nights ago I took my children to the football match between France and Germany at Stade de France north of Paris. We were joined by several colleagues from our school. It was a good game that France won, 2-0. France scored the first goal during the additional time at the end of the first half and the second goal at about the 88 minute mark.
A few minutes into the first half of the match, we heard a loud noise. It sounded like a stadium speaker shorting out or a microphone being dropped, but very loud. There was no reaction by the crowd or the stadium officials, so we thought nothing of it. About 10-15 minutes later we heard a similar noise, but louder and I could almost feel the percussion in my chest, but again, no reaction. (In retrospect, the way that this was handled was very wise because it avoided what could have been a very tragic panic reaction by the crowd in the stadium.)
After the game ended, we were leaving the bleachers and chatting with our colleagues when we heard that those noises were bombs at the stadium and that there were terrorist attacks actively occurring throughout Paris. As we (myself, my kids and colleagues from school) were processing this new and grave information and descending tall stairs to exit the stadium, we heard a loud commotion and screaming from just outside the stadium. Looking out toward the noise, we witnessed a large crowd of ~ 1000 people screaming and hysterically running back into the stadium. Stadium security began telling everyone to get down and take cover. They quickly began ordering us back into the stadium bleachers and onto the field while telling us to stay low. While running back up the stairs within a mass panic, my son Derrick lost one of his shoes. The situation was on the brink of mass hysteria and we were barely able to communicate in broken French and broken English with stadium security, police and other fans. My family became separated from the rest of the group from school. Fortunately, I was able to communicate with Carrie via text and she was able to tell me what was being reported on the web.
Sitting in the bleachers, realizing that we were in the middle of a terrorist attack, working with hampered communication by the overload of the cellular system as well as the communication barrier between us and the locals, and realizing that our path home on the subway through Paris was at risk as the attacks continued in Paris, I became so frightened that I was physically trembling for a few minutes. I regained my wits and the kids and I prayed and waited in the bleachers for more info or further instructions from stadium security or national police.
Several minutes later we were directed to leave the stadium again. As we approached the stairs to descend, we found Derrick’s shoe. Someone had picked it up and set it in the corner so it would not be lost. Praise God! The national and municipal police were out in force with full gear. The crowd walked slowly toward the train station. While we were traversing a tunnel under the thoroughfare, progress stopped and nerves began to climb. To ease the stress, the French fans began to sing their national anthem. Soon thereafter we began walking again toward the train station.
The kids and I boarded a train station toward Chatelet, in central Paris to get a connection to the B line which takes us home, however, Carrie and I both had a check in our spirit that we should NOT go to Chatelet. We later found out there was a shooting at that station. I consulted with the train personnel and boarded a train going north, away from Paris. We got off the train at St Denis to connect with another train to get home, but found that all trains, buses and taxis were stopped. The atmosphere at the St Denis station on the boarding platforms was one of tension, caution, fatigue and fear. The kids and I exited the station to look for other options and saw a dead body partially covered in the entrance way of the station, surrounded by security. Moments later an ambulance and many police arrived. Several minutes later I asked one of the police officers what viable travel options were. He suggested we find a local hotel to stay in, which is what Carrie and I considered was the best option. However, one of the passengers on the boarding platform at St Denis commented that this is not a part of town that we should walk around at night as it is dangerous, even on normal nights. In spite of that, I directed the kids to follow me toward a hotel about 700 meters away. Garrett got a check in his spirit that we should not leave and that we should stay near the large map just outside the station. We stood around the map for a while, texted with Carrie and tried to figure out what to do, when a French couple approached us and asked if they could help. After brief greetings and an explanation of our situation, they offered to help. The gentleman’s mom was on the way there in a car. They could take us to their home, further north away from Paris, for the night or until we found another option. We graciously accepted. His mom arrived across the street and river from the station. By this time the ambulance with the body had left, along with some of the police.
As we spoke with the lady about how to fit 7 people into a small 5 seater car, we observed a multitude of firefighters and police / swat personnel arrive and rush into the St Denis station. We were tense as there was a constant flow of emergency vehicles with full sirens rushing about. The gentleman’s mom explained that traffic on the highways and roadways was dangerous and that she was not comfortable taking more than 5 people in her car. The gentleman then found a nearby hotel, made a reservation in our name, and they took us to the hotel piled into the car. We checked into the hotel, prayed, talked to Carrie and slept. During the whole ordeal, Carrie had mobilized prayer warriors, watched the news, and kept our loved ones informed. On Saturday morning, we awoke, found which bus and train lines were open and finally went home to Massy.
There were five easily identifiable interventions by the Holy Spirit during this tragic and scary night.
- There is no explanation for my wife checking to see if the game was over other than a nudging from God;
- We found Derrick’s shoe near the stairs as we left the stadium;
- He advised us not to get on the train to Chatelet or Paris;
- He advised us to stay near the map outside of the St Denis train station; and
- He sent a French couple to the map to help us get to a hotel.
In addition to those instances, He comforted us and encouraged us throughout the night.
No matter how dark and scary things can get, the Lord will never leave His people. He is the Good Shepherd. We lived through and experienced an ISIS terrorist attack first hand … we also experienced Psalm 23 first-hand.
Thanks to all the prayer warriors who interceded on ours and Paris’ behalf.
Thanks be to God for the all of our colleagues arriving back home safely.
Thank you God that Carrie was able to communicate with us, the prayer team, and our loved ones.
Thanks be to the Almighty and Loving God.