Local couple worlds apart when terror struck Paris

(Undated courtesy photo Brian and Erica VanEe)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A week after the deadliest attacks on Paris since World War II, shell-shocked residents honored the 130 victims with candles and songs, but they remain on edge because that at least one suspect is still at large.

A Grand Rapids woman who was there talked to 24 Hour News 8 about the terrifying moments. Her husband told 24 Hour News 8 what it was like being here, in West Michigan, not knowing if he would see her again.

“I think I’ve had a little bit of post-traumatic stress from the whole thing and you know I’m just taking it one day at a time,” said Erica VanEe. “I’m thankful to be alive.”

A week after the attacks in Paris Erica VanEe who is now in Germany is still dealing with anxiety and fear. Loud noises cause her panic and she has a hard time sleeping.

Last Friday she was care-free. She was out on the town in Paris enjoying dinner at Couscous Deli.

“We had a fabulous meal together,” she recalled. “We laughed, we toasted to life.”

Minutes later, lives were taken at restaurants and cafés, some less than a mile away. Back in Grand Rapids her husband was at work.

>>Timeline: Paris attacks

“My phone pinged and it was the WOOD-TV app that went off that said there were shootings in Paris and some hostages and right away I’m thinking Paris is a big city, but where is my wife at,” remembers Brian VanEe.

He quickly text his wife who was still at the restaurant.

“[A] person in the back came up and I think she was crying a little bit, we knew it was really serious,” she said. “It felt a lot like 9/11. I mean, just the world stopped.”

“[I was] praying that she would be all right and safe with the other people she was with,” Brian said.

She was able to get to her hotel safely. The next day she realized how lucky she was to be alive.

“This kinds of sets you back a little bit and makes you think about life a little bit differently,” Brian said.

Erica comes home Wednesday night. The couple says they have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The biggest blessing will be spending it together.

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