Frederic Martin, the president of Alliance Francaise de Fresno, learned that two of his family members in Paris were nearly caught in a string of attacks that killed more than 100 people Friday night.
Martin said his two nephews were on their way to watch an exhibition soccer match between France and Germany in the Stade de France just north of Paris. They were late to the game, which featured last year’s World Cup finalists. They heard an explosion as they were about to pull into the stadium and immediately turned around, Martin said.
Two suicide bombings killed at least three people at the stadium. Similar attacks occurred shortly after at a concert hall and restaurant in the Paris area. It was not clear Friday night who was responsible or how many were killed or injured.
Martin’s mother, sister, brother and a handful of other relatives live in the Paris area.
His first call was to his mother. It was about 11 p.m. in France when he spoke to her, and she had not heard the news. She was watching something else on TV.
He then heard from his sister, whose sons were on their way to the stadium. Martin is fairly confident that none of his family members were harmed, but he still was gathering information.
Martin does not believe any Alliance Francaise members were in Paris. The nonprofit focuses on promoting the French language and educating central San Joaquin Valley residents about French culture.
He described some of what he heard from family members and on French radio.
“There was a hashtag that spread through France after the first attacks called #porteouverte, meaning ‘open door,’ ” he said. “Everyone was trying to get people off the streets by opening their doors to the local population. That way the police can use the road network with no traffic.”
Martin moved to Fresno from the Bay Area in 2000. He became an American citizen shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
“I was there in 2005, the last time a state of emergency was declared,” he said. “I went to a store, then took a subway back to where I was staying. That store was blown up 20 minutes later.”
Martin said it’s been a few years since he last visited his family in Paris. He had been planning on going again soon, and the attacks have motivated him even more to return, he said.
One person who aborted a trip to Paris on Friday was Lisa Casarez of Fresno, the owner of Angels of Grace, a foster care placement agency.
She had traveled to Chicago with a group and was about to board a plane to Paris. In a Facebook post, she related how she called her daughter to tell her she was leaving on the trip.
“She pleaded with me not to go. I could hear my grandchildren crying in the background not to go to Paris. I could not go knowing they were worried for my safety. I grabbed my carry-ons and asked them to let me off the plane.”
She asked her Facebook friends to pray for the group members who left. “They are on their way to Paris. I’m still on Chicago,” Casarez wrote.