Chesapeake teen in Paris during attacks

Published 9:56 am Friday, November 20, 2015

As the world continues to reel following the terrorist attacks this weekend in Paris, a Chesapeake resident was there when ISIS hit.

Sawyer Stephens, 19-year-old son of Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens and Juli Stephens, field representation for U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, had gone to the City of Lights with classmates to see the sights.

Stephens has spent the fall in London as part of study abroad program of Lipscomb University, where he is a student.

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“I learned about the attacks from one of the girls in our group,” Stephens said via email. “She was the only one who had an international data plan and got a text from her mother and grandfather asking if she was OK. She called her mom and got details about one of the attacks from her.”

The students were at a train station in Paris when they learned what had happened.

“All we saw were a few police cars racing in the same direction after we left the station,” he said. “We were staying in a bed and breakfast just about 15 minutes from the city center where the bulk of the attacks took place.”

Growing up in Chesapeake, Stephens said, gave him a sense of the world as a safe place.

This has changed his perception of reality, he said.

“Being so near to a world tragedy really shakes up your perspective of safety,” he said. “You never know when something bad could happen so always live life to the fullest and with no regrets.

“This atrocity makes me feel a mix of emotions: fear, anger and sadness. I am mad at these monsters who would kill hundreds of people based solely on their hate. While I am scared of the possibility of another attack, we cannot let that fear control us as people. If we are so scared that we don’t go outside, they win.”