My exciting trip to Paris to be part of Airbnb Open for 5000 hosts had a very tragic ending.
After two days of the event, we went out for a nice dinner with some friends, on Friday the 13th. We had a lovely evening, and had a rule to not have our phones out while eating. When we had finished our meals and the big question was if we had room for dessert or not, we took out our phones to take some photos. It didn't take long until one of the girls at the table saw a news article about some shooting in Paris. We didn't think much of it, as it said to be gang related. When she updated the news feed a few minutes later and there were reports of several more shootings we realised the severity of the situation. We were sitting in a restaurant in the epi-centre of the shootings and didn't know what to do. We decided to go home, but were stopped by the security guards of the restaurant - it was too dangerous to go outside. We were stuck in the restaurant for about half an hour, and all of the sudden everyone had to leave in a hurry. While being evacuated we managed to get an Uber. Before we found the car, the phone through which we ordered it decided to stop functioning and we lost contact with the driver. We were incredibly lucky, and found the car further down the street, and the driver drove us home.
Once home I called my boyfriend who I was also talking to in the restaurant and assured him I'm fine. I texted my family in Finland as it already was in the middle of the night. Then we went on facebook and tried to connect with all the colleagues that were around Paris that evening. In total we had around 630 Airbnb employees in Paris, and 5000 hosts attending the event.
We stayed up most of the night and we were lucky to get the news that every employee was accounted for. A lot of them had been in much more dangerous situations than us, and had seen a lot more of the terror. I slept a few hours of very poor sleep mixed with nightmares.
The next day we were all on standby trying to figure out what is happening with the last day of the event, and if all the hosts were safe. We started calling all hosts, and that took up most of the day.
We didn't leave the apartment once, and the whole day went in a haze. I got a lot of lovely messages and texts from people around the world, and it warmed my heart. We also rebooked our return flights, as we didn't feel like staying until the 18th - the desire to go sightseeing and explore Paris was far gone for us.
On Sunday we were determined to go outside, we would not surrender in fear. We walked around the whole city and took taxis. We avoided large crowds and public transport and managed to have a nice day. When we got back in we read about the false alarm of people panicking, and decided to stay inside the rest of the evening. The city felt almost like normal, but there was a bit of tension too that you wouldn't normally get. Around all big sights you could see army and security carrying guns too, which in a way was frightening but also reassuring.
On Monday I was flying to Helsinki, and had a country wide minute of silence at the airport just before the flight boarded. When the plane landed I felt a huge sense of relief, and I hugged all of my family extra hard when I saw them. We should not forget how fragile life can be.
We should also not let events like these scare us out of living our lives. I will not stop travelling due to this, and I will always love Paris as a city.