Personal Essay - Paris, Ida McGrath

Ida McGrath


English II - You and Systems

21 September 2018


We walked into the packed train station to drop off my Mom. People buzzed past all in their own worlds as they rushed to get to their trains. We looked around in confusion, trying our best to use our limited French to understand where we had to go.

We had flown into Barcelona about a week and a half ago for my Mom’s conference and had since been on a road trip through Europe. But it was now time for her second conference in London. We had decided that my Mom would go to her conference and my Dad and I would stay in Paris, and then meet her in London a few days after. As we found our way to the back of the line for Eurostar, we noticed how backed up it was.

"Do you know what's going on?" We asked a woman in front of us.

"Apparently there's an abandoned package on the line, they’re just going through procedure before they can let us through," she spoke softly as she nervously ran her fingers through her hair.

I sighed deeply and sat on the cold stone floor preparing myself for a long wait. I looked up at everyone’s annoyed faces. My Mom and Dad were mumbling trying to figure out what we should do. Some people were managing to get past the line somehow and we weren’t sure how long it would take. My Mom was trying to convince my Dad that it was ok for us to leave, but he insisted on waiting for my Mom in case her train got canceled. My Mom won.

My Dad and I weaved our way through the accumulating crowd. I made eye contact with a girl around my age. Her eyes shone with the same tinge of annoyance as mine and we smiled in solidarity before she was swept away by the crowd. “Ida come on!” I hurried to my Dad when a man's voice came through the building speaking in French.

I looked around trying to grasp what was going on and watched tourists’ eyebrows furrow with confusion while locals’ eyes glossed over with fear. A woman's voice then blasted over the speaker, this time in English, "An abandoned package has been located at platform nine. We must ask everyone to please evacuate the building immediately."

Everyone grabbed their things and moved slowly towards the exit. No one was running like they do in the movies or on the news. No one was running like they did last time. Even as hundreds of people nudged me forward all I could think about was three years ago.

It was just a regular day at school. We all busted out of the doors onto the sidewalk. Some people left to go take the bus or walk home while everyone else hung out talking and laughing. When all of a sudden kids started running away. I thought they were just messing around until they came running back towards us yelling something. I couldn’t process what was going on but suddenly a cop car rolled up like something out of a movie. The cop hopped out of the car before it even stopped and screamed telling us, “Keep running and don’t stop! There's a bomb on Market St.!” My friend grabbed my hand and we sprinted as far as we could run.

I had never really realized how much that affected me until this moment. It was always a memory that somehow got locked away, to the point that I would forget it ever even happened. I don’t think I could say it changed me, but it definitely makes you understand how those things don’t just happen to other people. You never really know how it feels until you experience it first hand.

I was brought back to reality as we burst out of the doors of the train station. I watched a man in front of me start recording everything. Everyone stood outside of the giant glass wall of the train station. I began to imagine what would happen if there actually was a bomb, how the glass would shatter. I shook my head to stop myself. Stop, it's going to be fine. It was fine last time. You’re going to be ok. Don’t think like that.

I reached for my phone to try to get in touch with my friends and realized that they were all asleep. I tried to shake the thought that I could barely remember the last thing I had talked to them about, and I hoped it wouldn’t be my last. Suddenly, giant black vans rushed down the already closed off street. Big men lept out dressed in heavy bulletproof jackets. No one around me was freaking out, was this all just extra precaution? “Ida let’s go. Your Mom is down the block.” I tagged behind my Dad pulling out my camera trying to capture all the emotions around me. As we reached my Mom she seemed so calm. Suddenly, a big bang echoed off the buildings around us.