‘Divine intervention:’ GVSU students escape violence in France

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NICE, France — Professors at Grand Valley State are calling it "divine intervention" after a group of students escaped the chaos in Nice, France just moments before the violence.

All 18 students studying abroad are safe, including two professors traveling with them, Professor Carol Wilson and Professor Dan Golembeski. Wilson remembers the horror surrounding the attack that left more than 80 dead and 200 others injured.

"People started running into the passage way from the Promenade Des Anglais and from the other direction further down," Wilson said. "The thing that struck me were how frightened the children were. Many of the kids were kind of terrified with parents trying to calm them down and get them to safety."

As for the GVSU group, many were on the city's famous boardwalk just moments before the violence.

"All of us are safe and free from injury because of several different coincidences, I guess you could say divine coincidences," said Wilson.

One girl left the scene to get wine, others left a few minutes earlier than expected. Wilson says all 18 are safe and accounted for thanks to the help of strangers following the violence.

"Taxis were giving free rides, strangers were welcoming students into apartments, restaurants, or hotels to stay safe," said Wilson.

Faculty in West Michigan say they're doing everything they can to ensure their safety for the remainder of the trip.

"Unfortunately these days are at risk wherever they are," said Mark Schaub the Chief International Officer at GVSU. "They're safe and in a good location. Obviously they are going to have to individually and collectively process this horrible experience."

While the scene last night was sheer terror, professor Wilson said that Nice is quickly finding strength to move forward. People are moving in the streets and going to the beach but the feeling of safety is nothing more than a facade.

"They’re just not feeling safe, feeling like something could go wrong at any moment so their anxiety levels are pretty high," said Wilson.

We're told there's a large memorial in Nice where people are bringing flowers. A large number of GVSU students are giving blood to those who are in the hospital fighting for their lives. The students have one more week in Nice before heading to Paris.

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2 comments

  • Carol Wilson

    I am deeply disappointed by your editing. Several of my comments were taken completely out of context and you have misrepresented me in the writing of this article. I never said that the feeling of safety was a façade. I assured you that most of us feel quite safe, and my statement about the high level of anxiety was in reference to only a few students who were severely traumatized by the events. You can be sure that in the future, I will refuse to speak to any of your reporters.

  • Dan Golembeski

    The story here blurs events: personally, in my opinion, “divine intervention” is not something I would say, as I tend to look at the children and the innocents who were hurt as what we need to focus on…how can we remember them and how can we change the world in their memory to make it a safer place? And yet France is an extremely safe place. This event could have happened anywhere — in the U.S. there are over 100 automobile deaths per day. France is a country of free expression and freedom of movement, full of beautiful people and one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world. The trauma is terrible for those who were hurt and killed and their families, for others, we need to get a grip: we are fortunate — but life goes on. For many of us, it was not sheetrterror– it was an event that we stood up to and faced with courage and strength, and solidarity we those around us. We are here and carry on for those who cannot. This includes not being afraid to be free.