Rochester man was minutes from Paris terror attacks — here's his story
Local realtor Robert "Bucky" Beeman was attending an event for the Airbnb Open conference in Paris Friday night when terrorists carried out a coordinated assault on multiple nearby sites, including a restaurant just one mile away from him.
At least 129 people, including one American student, were killed in the attacks — the worst wave of violence to hit France since World War II. Another 352 people were injured, about 100 of them critically. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has claimed responsibility.
Beeman was socializing with conference-goers at 25 Degrés Est, a pub just minutes north of the theater and restaurants that were attacked, when he first learned of the violence.
"Someone stood up on a chair, and we're thinking 'OK, they're going to make an announcement related to the event,'" Beeman said in a video call Saturday afternoon with the Med City Beat.
The speaker informed the crowd that there had been a shooting nearby and asked everyone to stay put. At that point, Beeman assumed it was an isolated incident, not a full-fledged assault that French President Francois Hollande later referred to as an "act of war."
"It didn't necessarily settle in right at that moment," he said.
Beeman began receiving live updates from a man next to him who was following the events from his cell phone. He started to look around and observe his environment, wondering what he would do if a shooter was to enter the bar.
"This is what's going through my mind: If someone comes, where do I go? We're literally in a box. There's no basement. There's nowhere to go that I can see."
He then texted his girlfriend, Hana Anderson, with his address and told her he was headed back to their rental apartment. The two had been together the entire trip, but Anderson wasn't feeling well that night and decided to stay in.
"I just couldn't take it. My heart was beating. It was a feeling that I haven't felt before — very unsettling," said Beeman.
He walked steadily back to his building, texting Anderson the entire way to give updates on his location. It wasn't until he arrived back at the apartment and opened his computer that he realized what had happened.
"That's when it really sunk in [that] this was something bigger," he said.
Beeman and Anderson said they were flooded with messages from family and friends from back home throughout the night. But even as they posted to social media to alert everyone that they were OK, they could hear sirens and other activity from right outside their window.
"You're wondering: Is more going on? You just don't know," said Anderson.
Despite the chaos that had ensued just hours earlier, Beeman said everything seemed relatively normal. "There were kids out in the parks. It was normal; it felt normal. It made me feel even safer walking."
The couple said they have been "amazed by how many people have reached out" to them over the past 24 hours. They even received a message from an international patient at the Mayo Clinic (someone they didn't know), who called to let them know he was praying for them.
Beeman said they plan to stay in Paris for another week. "They don't write any tourists books for what to do when this occurs."
About Sean Baker: Sean is the founder and editor of the Med City Beat. Under his direction, the site has transitioned from a small news blog to one of the most widely-read publications in the city. Prior to launching the site in 2014, Sean spent about two years producing television news in Green Bay and Rochester. His office is above a brewery, so please excuse any typos. Twitter.
(Cover photo: Robert Beeman)