Cleveland man describes experience in Paris during Friday’s attacks

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PARIS, France - Stephen Wright’s first visit to Paris started like those of most tourists. A weekend break from a business trip in Germany meant time for the Northeast Ohio resident to travel to the City of Lights and visits to popular sites like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Wright was at an outdoor Christmas market Friday night when he first realized something was wrong.

“All of a sudden, we saw tons of police cars going all these different directions, and we saw all these ambulances go by,” Wright said Saturday via video chat from his hotel room.

As loved ones got through to his European colleagues with news of the attacks, the group quickly got back to their hotel, about three miles from the hostage scene at the Bataclan Concert Hall. They avoided sites like the Eiffel Tower.

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“We thought that would be a prime place they would attack, so we didn’t want to be near that or large groups,” Wright said.

Unable to reach Wright in the first hour after the attacks his family back home in Northeast Ohio, including Fox 8 News reporter Matt Wright, feared for his safety. Wright was able to video chat with his wife once back at the hotel.

By day break Saturday, much of Paris closed for business, including museums.

“It's just a huge, huge, huge city. From what I’ve heard, it's always busy with cars with people and it didn’t seem that busy,” Wright said of the city.

An employee at Wright’s hotel said many French citizens stayed home, while tourists still took in the city.

“He said that they're scared. I didn’t feel that way at all. To me, it felt like if I didn’t know what happened yesterday, it seemed like a normal day because I didn’t have anything to compare it to,” Wright said.

Wright did note the addition of armed police officers near popular attractions Saturday, which is common in the United States, but is more unusual in Europe.

“It didn’t seem like an overly large police presence here. From my friends from Germany, they thought it was a large police presence.”

Wright said there was minimal security on his train trip from Germany to France. He and his colleagues expected additional security as they boarded a train back to Germany Sunday afternoon, so they planned to leave additional time.

He also looked up contact information for the U.S. State Department and the location of the U.S. Embassy in Paris. The State Department said anyone concerned about a U.S. citizen in Paris can call 1-888-407-4747 in the U.S. or 202-501-4444 from overseas, and follow @TravelGov on Twitter.

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