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Paris shooting disrupts school trip to Europe

FORT KENT, Maine — A group of Valley Rivers Middle School and Fort Kent Community High School students on academic vacation to Europe found themselves near the scene of a deadly shooting in France yesterday, which was possibly motivated by terrorism.

The Islamic State, known also as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the shooting which took place on the famed Paris street Champs-Elysees on Thursday, April 20. The shooting took the lives of one French police officer as well as a male gunman. The unnamed gunman injured two other officers before law enforcement shot him down.

Peggy Carson of Fort Kent said her daughter, CHS freshman Brice Carson, was with a group of students at a shop near the Arc de Triomphe monument on Champs-Elysees when they heard sounds that turned out to be gunfire breaking out.

According to Peggy, Brice and her fellow students, along with French teacher Margaret Guimond, took cover in the shop where they remained with other customers and bystanders under lockdown for three hours until it was safe to leave.

“I was very nervous but I was chatting with Brice through Facebook while she was in lockdown, and that made me feel better,” Peggy said.

Peggy said she was proud when a parent chaperone on the trip, Lisa Eno, informed her that Brice, who is fluent in Spanish, helped an older Spanish-speaking lady in distress to contact her own daughter during the chaos and confusion of the shooting.

The  students were among a group of more than 30 that also included teachers and parent chaperones. The group embarked on a two-week, three-country tour of Europe on Friday, April 14 when they departed from Fort Kent by bus for Montreal. From there, they traveled by plane to London, arriving the next day.

The students visited such famed sites as Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Tower of London before crossing the English Channel for France.

Among the students’ French travel destinations which they visited prior to the shooting were the Memorial de Caen and American World War II cemetery in Normandy, and the Ponte du Hoc monument, which is seated above cliffs which American troops scaled on D-Day in June 1944.

The shooting took place on the day the students arrived in Paris.

The students were planning to spend two more days in Paris, and then travel to Amsterdam, The Netherlands on Sunday, April 23. On Tuesday, April 25 they were to have flown back to Montreal and arrived home in Fort Kent the following day.

It is unclear at this point how the rest of the vacation will proceed. However, Guimond posted the following optimistic message in a closed Facebook forum on the day of the shootings:

“Thankful for the wonderful people in our travel group. Thankful for all the beauty we are seeing. Thankful for learning about different cultures. Thankful for the extraordinary people we meet along the way. Thankful for the kindness of strangers. Thankful that we spread love and not hate. Paris, je t’aime.”

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