By Portia Williams
For eight days, Dr. John Lorentz and his wife Golriz Lorentz, vacationed in Paris, France, basking in its beauty, and enjoying the wonderful historical sites. The horrific acts of terrorism which transpired on Friday, Nov. 13, in France occurred just minutes from where the Lorentz couple was dining.
“We were actually in a restaurant, in a district adjacent to where all of the chaos took place. We actually didn’t hear anything, and at the time we were not aware that anything was going on,” Lorentz said. “We had been there vacationing for eight days, and this was our last day, were scheduled to depart from France the next day after the tragedy took place and we’d gone out for a celebratory dinner that evening. This is in an area that is heavily frequented by tourists with lots of outdoor cafes and restaurants.”
It was not until the Lorentz’s returned to their hotel in France that they learned of the enormity of the tragedy.
“Actuality, we didn’t experience a whole lot directly, because this sort of occurred while we were still out, and the news hadn’t spread yet, we didn’t even know in the very beginning until we got back to the hotel,” he said. “When we got back to the hotel we got the report that something bad really happened, and officials were shutting the hotel down and that was pretty widespread across town, that they were closing things off.”
Lorentz said he believes the reaction to the tragedy in Paris was similar to the 9/11 tragedy which took place in the United States.
“It took some time for people to receive the dimensions of what was happening. The reaction, I suppose was not dissimilar to what happened on 9/11 here in the United States, with all of the chaos, and then there was fear, that was just the beginning,” he said. “So, the first reaction on the part of security forces was basically, just to shut everything down, and that is where it impacted us directly.”
Calls began to come in from friends and family, inquiring about the safety of Dr. Lorentz and his wife.
“I started getting calls from people, my son and daughter, and some friends here in the United States started calling my cell phone, but of course there is a six hour time difference,” he said. “So it was by that time that we began to realize the enormity of what had happened. We received a tremendous outpouring of concern from many people who had knowledge that we were in Paris at the time of the tragedy. When I had an opportunity, I posted on my Facebook page to let everyone know that my wife and I were okay.”
Expectantly, the travel back to the United States from Charles De Gaulle International Airport in France was quite complicated that weekend, making the trip a two-day journey getting back to Portsmouth.
“First of all, all flights were delayed, and delayed considerably,” he said. “The security measures at the airport were stepped up considerably, so it was a very long process going through the security in multiple layers, not just once, but multiple times. We ended up missing our connection getting into Detroit, so we ended up being put up in Detroit over night to try to connect the next morning. By the time we ended up getting from Detroit to Columbus to home was basically a whole day, and we could have driven it a lot faster. We were two days in transit from Paris to home.”
This would be the second time that the Lorentz family would have ties to a world-wide tragedy.
“There is an ironic twist for us personally, because on 9/11, my wife and I were in Geneva, Switzerland, and our son Nathan was in the World Trade Center,” he said. “So, we were frantically trying to contact him, when we heard the news of 9/11, and were quite fearful for his safety and the hours dragged by, and we couldn’t contact him. Now here in this situation, my wife and I again are in Europe in Paris, and our son was in Washington D.C. and he was trying to contact us. I didn’t have my phone, I’d left it back at the hotel at the time that all of this happened, and our son actually got news of this before we did. So he was very concerned when he couldn’t reach us, so there was sort of an unusual twist to all of this.”
Ultimately, he said coming in such close contact with the France tragedy was a very sobering experience.
“First of all we are just heartbroken that it happened at all, and it is just so senseless. It is a sobering experience,” he said. “It makes you even realize how precious each and every moment of life is, and that something like this can happen at any point in time. You end up valuing every moment of life. Again, our hearts are heavy, and we had so much of a wonderful time within France. Our deep feelings of sadness are intensified, it is one of those situations where all people in the world need to pull together and work for peace.”
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.