A Columbus family vacationing in Paris was about a mile away from the deadly terrorist attacks but safely made it home during the weekend.
Mike and Lana Clancy and their daughter Caitlin, 22, were in a hotel room near the area where terrorists attacked outdoor cafés, the Bataclan concert hall and a soccer stadium Friday night, when at least 129 people were killed.
Lana Clancy described the aftermath of the shootings and explosions — which occurred between 9:20 and 9:40 p.m. local time in Paris — as a moment-by-moment experience, which began with the family packing for their trip home in the hotel room that night and then turned frightening as they realized the city was under attack.
French investigators say three teams of terrorists carried out attacks at about six sites in the city using seven suicide bombs and automatic weapons.
The Clancy family were watching the France vs. Germany soccer game on television as they packed their suitcases for the trip home.
Abruptly, Mike Clancy’s phone lit up with calls from friends in the U.S. asking about the family’s safety and telling them what was being shown on American television. The family quickly switched over to CNN and watched what was happening about a mile from their hotel.
Mike Clancy pulled out a map to see how close the attacks were to the hotel, learning that at least one site was about a mile away.
“It was close enough,” said Clancy, who is vice president of information technology at SIHO in Columbus.
Then they heard the sirens, which became nearly nonstop with several hospitals near their hotel, he said.
The reality was sinking in, said Lana Clancy, a preschool teacher at First Christian Church in Columbus.
The family knew that the hotel doors were closed and locked at 11 p.m., but hotel staff did not contact them about any specific safety procedures. Other than the sirens, the family did not hear anything else and decided they would stay with their plan of departing Paris for home Saturday morning.
The Clancys had traveled to Paris to pick up Caitlin, an IUPUI student who spent a semester in the south of France staying with a host family she had met through the IU Honors foreign language program.The family decided to reconnect in Paris, with Mike and Lana Clancy arriving Nov. 6 and meeting with Caitlin, who took a train to Paris. The family’s itinerary called for them to leave on separate flights Saturday for the United States.They spent their vacation week traveling to popular Paris tourist spots such as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Mike Clancy said Caitlin had warned her parents that they would see a military presence with soldiers armed with assault rifles providing security. The family never felt unsafe while traveling to the tourist spots, he said.
Caitlin, a 2012 Columbus East graduate who is majoring in French at IUPUI, is fluent and helped make the family feel more comfortable as they traveled about the city, her father said.
“You’re always uneasy traveling outside of the U.S., but that made it easier,” he said.
The next morning, the Clancys had a flight out of Charles de Gaulle Airport to the United States connecting through Detroit. Caitlin had a flight out of the same airport connecting through Washington.Still in shock over the news reports, the family focused on the step-by-step process of getting to the airport, calling four different taxi companies before one agreed to pick them up to take them there.“I realized we were still in the middle of this,” Mike Clancy said.
Tightened security was evident as the Clancys took Caitlin to her gate and then continued on to catch their own flight.
The couple waited about an hour and a half on the plane so all the passengers who were delayed in the lengthy security procedures could board, Lana Clancy said.
“It was definitely more somber,” Lana Clancy said of the mood at the airport. “Everyone was pretty patient. Anyone who spoke loudly, they were immediately stopped. The security presence was noticeable.”
The parents continued to text their daughter to check on her as they waited for the flight to take off.
Caitlin arrived in Indianapolis about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, her mother said. She is preparing to resume her studies at IUPUI, while the Clancys resumed their regular work schedule on Monday.
Mike and Lana Clancy got to Detroit about 3:30 p.m. Saturday but missed their connecting flight and didn’t get back to Indiana until Sunday.
But the moment they walked away from Caitlin in the Paris airport, Lana Clancy said, the realization of what the family had experienced began to hit her.
“We were together as a family in Paris. She had been gone for three months,” Lana Clancy said. “Just to be together was comforting — it was important.”
Lana Clancy said the family was humbled and grateful because so many people didn’t return home to their loved ones Friday night.
“We just thank God for keeping us safe,” she said.
A United We Stand Against Terrorism event is planned at 5:30 p.m. today on the front steps of Columbus City Hall.
Participants will stand in support of peace and unity and to remember and support victims in Paris, Beirut, Lebanon, and all over the world.
In the event of rain, the event will be moved to the first floor meeting hall in City Hall.