January 31, 2009

A TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE.....

A manifestation gone bad... for me, at least, and the others inside the underground corridors of the Line B, Metros 4 and 6 at Denfert Rochereau tonight. It was a bit too much excitement for me, and the whole thing really stressed me out, bringing me to tears of fear and frustration as I was trying to figure out what was going on and what to do to stay safe.
Today, Dawn and I had a lovely time at Aimee's teahouse and a nice but short walk down the Canal Henri Martin. We parted at Republic as she hopped on the 9 and I hopped on the 6 and headed home.... Little did I know at that time that a short 10 minutes later, I would be full of fear and terror as I tried to figure out how to get to safety in the underground halls of the metro station!
I was just passing through the turnstile to get to the Line B from the 6 when I heard the word----RUN!!! Someone was screaming and I looked up ahead of me and saw lots of people starting to rush at us, so I turned around and tried to jump over the turnstile as others were trying to do the same. All I could think of was getting caught up in a mob of people charging at us and pictured the mobs at the WHO were people were killed in the stampedes... I was sooo scared. I ran and looked back to see what was happening. There was really no where to exit up to the street level as there were only the metro correspondence lines and no sorties!! What to do?!!! It felt sooo surreal, people were running and scattering, no really knowing what was going on or where to go or what to do. I asked someone what was going on and got- les manifestants!! I didn't really know why, because the mainfs were on Thursday and I didn't know of anything else going on.
I waited in the tunnels trying to see if they were coming my way and to see which way to go... Others were confused, still and there was no one really to ask, as no one knew what was happening!! I asked a man with a stroller and he said there was a lot of "trouble" going on by the Line B, MY LINE to go home, so I figured I could just get on the 4 and go to Montparnasse Bienvenue and grab the B there and that would be the best thing. I was right in front of the 4 line that I needed to take and saw the metro so I made a cautious run for it. Just as I approached the metro, the doors closed. A man was struggling with the door frantically trying to pry it open. Lots of people were panicky at that point. I grabbed the handle and tried to open the door but then the train pulled away. Right at that instant, I turned to the noise I heard on my right... Down the end of the quay I saw the manifestants, and noticed someone masked like DEATH!!! I freaked and at that instant in time my eyes and throat started to burn. A familiar sensation, as I have had this happen to me already twice before since I have been in France, it was la cimogane, or tear gas!!!! I had been caught up in tear gas... I made a run for it as I am asthmatic and I am VERY sensitive to this stuff...
Of course, I started to panic, since I had NO idea what was going on at all... I ran through the corridors asking people what was happening and were it was safe to go... I was in a big daze. It was an out of body experience, and I felt like a hostage in the underground Paris subway system awaiting only God knew what! I made another dash for it through one of the tunnels and saw my TRAIN!! WHEW, I thought.... As I ran to get on, I noticed large groups of police everywhere... About two cars up from where I was were a group of about 20 police... I was waiting for the train to pull out and asked some teens if it was going to Antony... No, it was going the opposite way, to CDG... mais, so what!! At that point, I was only thinking... GET ME THE HELL OUTTA HERE RIGHT NOW!!! I called Alex up and told him what was going on... I sounded like a mad woman and finally broke down in tears... The train wasn't moving .... What's taking so long and BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!!! An explosion!!! WHAT THE F**K was that?!! Then, I imagined bombs and terrorists... still not knowing what was going on around me. I asked one teen what the nose was..." Un flashball," he said. WTF?? I was thinking it was a paintball or beebee gun... But, then... I thought it was a bomb or grenade exploding! I got out of the train since it wasn't going anywhere and went back to where I started... back to the corridors... I saw a group of 5 women huddling in a group, some crying, some looking really shaken... I asked if it was safe to pass back over to the 4 and one lady said, "Don't go there, their is a cimogane bomb that went off and it's all over. So, the 4 was out... I asked them where they were going and one lady said, "To Antony," she said, but she didn't know how to get to the right train. Happy to not be alone, I said," I'm going there, too... Come with me, I know where it is... " We walked through a hallway and found the metro but it was the one to CDG. We saw hundreds of police on both sides of the platforms... just waiting and watching for trouble..... I felt glad they were there!
I went up to one and said, "Excuse me, I just got hit with crimogane and I am asthmatic. He said to me, "Bonjour," and told me to get some air because we were in an open area and that would be good for me. I then asked how to get the B to Antony and if it was now safe. He told us (the lady and her daughter) to go up the steps walks cross over the walkway, and go downstairs to the other side of the quay. When we crossed the walkway... we saw soooooo many police there at least 30 or so and they had stopped some young folks - manifestants -- some with their faces painted white.... We crossed over to the other side and found our train!!! I was NEVER sooo relieved! I still had NO IDEA what had happened, if it was over, or what? But, I figured that with the great number of police EVERYWHERE around us, that they had the matter under control and we were safe!
Once sitting down on the train, I started talking to the lady to ask what happened. She offered me a can of Perrier because she saw how shaken I was and that I was out of breath. That was really sweet of her... Her poor, terrified daughter (about 8 or 9 years old) was sooo shaken she was crying and I told her... "I know, me too.. I cried on the phone to my husband!!! I was soooo scared!!" I think that comforted her a bit to know that an adult like me was also scared! WOW... I am sooo glad that was over and that I was on my way back home!!! I called Alex to tell him I was on the train and headed back home and he invited me out for dinner at the Indian resto in our town... He was pretty worried about me because when I first called him, I wasn't communicating coherently since I was so filled with fear and actually more than just fear.... I was filled with terror for the first time in my life... I'm just glad we were all okay, though I am still feeling some of the affects of the tear gas in my throat and on my lips....

7 comments:

Notes from Noël said...

So, how was your Indian dinner??

I can't believe that we had such different experinces getting home!! I'm so glad that you're safe and sound!

debi_in_Hawaii said...

Glad you're OK! I'm sure your sweetie's hugs made you feel better! :) Thank you Alex for taking such good care of her!
Did you ever find out what happened? What did the news say?

Juli said...

Wow, that is so terrifying! I am glad you are home safe and sound Leesa!

Leesa said...

Noelle--- Thanks!! I was just so relieved to be on the train pulling away from the platform after all of that!!! Toooooo much excitement for me!!!
Indian dinner was good! I posted the next post to explain what happened....

Debi -- Thanks so much and yeh... Thanks to Alex, too!!!

Juli-- You can SURE say that AGAIN!!! I have never been so scared in my life!!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Welcom back home Leesa!!

Starman said...

Good grief! It's no wonder you were so terrified. Why didn't the police do anything to calm the crowds and at least get things organized so that you would know what was happening and where you would be safe? I'm glad you finally got away from it.

shannon said...

Wow! I'm so glad that you're okay! That is so scary!!!!