A West Sussex student has told of her ordeal at the Louvre in Paris when a suspected terrorist lashed out at guards with a machete and knives.
Now back at home in Midhurst, 17 year old Laura Bates said she had just arrived at the gallery on Friday with some 60 fellow A and AS level history of art students from Godalming College and their teachers when the attack happened.
“More or less as soon as we arrived alarms started going off,” said Laura “and police herded everyone into a room. People from the street were also brought into the room to keep them safe and we were locked in.
“A security guard started talking in French but we couldn’t understand and didn’t know what was going on, then someone next to us translated and said there was a suspected terrorist in the museum downstairs.”
“They told us to sit on the floor and to be quiet.
“One of the girls started crying. It was frightening but everyone was trying to stay calm. We started texting our mums to let everyone know we were safe.”
Laura texted her mum, Sally, at work in Midhurst, saying: “Currently on lock-down in the Louvre ’cos of shooting in the shopping centre - but we’re safe.”
For Sally it was the start of a three-hour nightmare as she watched news reports of the unfolding incident, received emails from her daughter’s college and waited for another call from her.
Inside the Louvre students watched in horror as the first news reports of the attack appeared on their phones.
“We saw the picture of the man who had been shot. But then we were told to turn off our phones because the terrorists could track how many people were in the building.
“That was frightening because we thought they were other terrorists still around and everyone started to panic a bit.
“We were told to shut the blinds in the room.”
She said it was three hours before they were allowed to leave.
“We were eventually led by the police to the top floor and then they led us out onto the street.
“It was strange because it was completely empty of people, they had cleared the streets, but it was full of police and loads of news reporters.
“It didn’t feel real at the time because we just did what we were told to do, but afterwards when we saw all the news reports and pictures we realised how close we had been to the attack.” The man, a 29 year old Egyptian is still in hospital where his condition is described as no longer life threatening. His family has denied he belonged to any Islamist groups.
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