Utahns who were in Paris during terrorist attacks share their stories

Posted at 9:33 PM, Nov 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-14 23:33:51-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- There are non-stop flights from Salt Lake City to Paris every day. On Saturday, many Utahns returned home, thankful to be away from the terror.

“There was a sense of urgency to get out, the whole feeling of the city had changed,” said Leslie Scilley, who was returning to Utah with her husband Harold after a nine day vacation.

“I was sad because I love France and I love Paris, so I was sad for them,” said Harold Scilley.

The couple said the deadly attack on the Bataclan Concert Hall hit close to their hotel, and also hit close to their hearts.

“We could hear all the commotion, but we couldn’t see it from our vantage point,” said Leslie Scilley. “We had dinner the night before right next to that theater.”

Another person who knows the concert hall well is American Jim Benn, who has lived and worked in Paris for the past 16 years.

“Because I know the room, I’ve been in there, it’s frightening, it’s scary,” said Benn, who is originally from Illinois.

Benn was at bar, on the Seine River, overlooking downtown Paris when the attacks occurred.

“We sort of looked up, and from four different directions we could just see the red and blue lights from the emergency vehicles going everywhere,” Benn said.

Benn works with study abroad programs, and has helped find housing accommodations for about 600 American students currently in Paris.

“I had to do a bunch of work because with American students I had to make sure everyone is accounted for, find everybody, and of course let my own family and friends know I was fine,” he said.

He said the day following the attacks, life continued for French citizens and visitors, but things were far from normal. He said going out for dinner and a show will never be the same.

“I noticed that everybody was looking at everybody, not necessarily in a friendly way, but in a suspicious way, people were very careful about looking at who was around because that is something we are going to have to do now, isn’t it?” Benn said.