BC-SD--Exchange-Paris Attacks-South Dakota,1st Ld-Writethru/715
South Dakota native in Paris alerted to attacks by father
MEGAN RAPOSA, Argus Leader
PATRICK ANDERSON, Argus Leader
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Emma Bennett assumed she was hearing fireworks.
The 19-year-old student sat with friends at the Stade de France, watching a soccer match between the French and German teams when she heard two loud booms, minutes apart.
It wasn't until a text from her parents toward the end of the game that Bennett realized Paris was under attack.
Bennett, a South Dakota native who graduated from Britton-Hecla High School in 2014, is among a handful of students with South Dakota ties who are studying in France. Colleges and universities scrambled to confirm student safety over the weekend after attacks left more than 100 people dead in Paris.
"I left my seat to go call my dad ... he told me, 'You need to get out of there,'" Bennett told the Argus Leader newspaper (http://argusne.ws/1NBc804 ).
Bennett told her parents she loved them, not knowing whether she would be able to tell them again.
"My heart is broken for the 128 people who didn't get that chance," Bennett said.
After that call, Bennett received a text from a friend who was working at a bar near one of the two restaurants attacked. He told her he heard shooting and an explosion outside. Her first reaction was that he must be joking.
"That's not funny," she said. "That can't be happening."
By this time, the game had ended, and the stadium was emptying. Bennett was separated from her friends in the crowd. Some of them were trampled by hordes of people fleeing after a third person blew himself up near the stadium.
"They were pretty much running for their lives," Bennett said.
For two hours, Bennett was alone and stranded outside the stadium. All of the taxis were full, and several metro lines were closed.
"Not being able to find my friends was the worst part," Bennett said.
She made it onto a train and took it to the last stop, as far from the city center as it would take her. There, she found a friend whose father came to pick them up. They made it home safely, three hours after the game ended.
Bennett, a student at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, had the option to cut short her time abroad, but she decided to stay in Paris for the rest of the semester.
Officials for Augustana University and the University of South Dakota confirmed they had students in France who are studying at institutions hours away from Paris.
Eric Leise, who oversees USD's study abroad program, said the university's response to dangerous activity depends on the severity of the situation and the proximity of the student. After an event like the Paris attacks, Leise works with his department to stay up-to-date on the situation and find and reach out to any affected students.
USD has a student studying in Pau, France, which is about four hours southwest of Paris.
"I spoke with her via email and she is doing well," Leise said.
Leise sent an email to all USD students studying in western Europe, encouraging them to be careful if they are planning any trips. He also encouraged them to consult the U.S. Department of State's study abroad website for information.
Augustana staff reached out immediately to one of the university's students who was studying abroad in Grenoble, France — also hours away. Part of the study abroad experience at the Sioux Falls campus includes making sure students are aware of the risks when it comes to living for months at a time in a different country, said Donn Grinager, director of international programs.
"It's kind of a well thought out process in terms of preparing students for the risks that are involved with life in general," Grinager said.
Eventually, Bennett and all of her friends made it home safely, but the whole city still mourns those who did not.
"We're all just trying to make sense of what happened and what's going to happen," Bennett said. "I think everyone's a little tense and on edge, but overall, everyone's really come together and helped out for those who need it."
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com
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