Paris attack eyewitness interview

Springfield man on Eiffel Tower when deadly attacks began in Paris

A Springfield man was on top of the Eiffel Tower when the deadly terrorist attacks began in Paris and he got his trip cut short after all the closures.

Jeff Dunmire said he and others saw police sirens while at the summit of the international symbol of Paris on Friday and was told by an elevator operator on the way down of a terrorist attack at a stadium and a concert.

The event made him think back to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But he said he plans to go back to Paris and to continue to travel.

“If it deters me from doing it again then they win,” Dunmire said. “We have to stop thinking like victims … We need to look at it as citizens as how we can keep these guys from taking so many lives at one time.”

The militant group Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the assault, which involved six coordinated shootings and explosions at a rock concert venue, several cafes and a soccer stadium.

More than 120 people were killed and 345 were injured.

The Eiffel Tower closed shortly after Dunmire and others exited and dimmed its iconic lights. But the monument was lit Monday in the French national colors: blue, white and red.

Dunmire and a group of nearly 50 family and friends, including 10 to 12 people from Springfield, arrived in France on Nov. 5 as part of a Grand Circle tour.

“By the time we got down from the tower, maybe five minutes after, we heard that the attacks had started and then we got to the hotel room maybe 20 minutes later it was full press with regard to where it was happening and where it took place,” Dunmire said.

He watched the events unfold on news outlets until about 4 a.m. Saturday. The next day he and other walked around but much of the city was shut down.

“All the museums were closed, all the schools were closed. That meant the Eiffel Tower was gone, Versailles, the Louvre, Notre Dame, anything where people could collect, where they thought there might be some damage and deaths,” Dunmire said.

All through the city Dunmire and others encountered places they couldn’t go because of house-to-house searches for people who may have been involved in the attacks, he said.

“The Pullman Hotel, next to the Eiffel Tower, police tried to corner somebody that was involved in the attack,” he said.

The Bastille quarters where some of the attacks occurred was cordoned off with military police, which prevented passersby from getting through the area.

“There was a huge presence of military around all the monuments,” Dunmire said. “It was definitely a presence there. They were very intent on searching these things out. I mean they took it seriously. They wasn’t any messing around.”

A lot of stores also closed on Saturday.

But as he and others walked around the city, he said some pedestrians walked as if it were a typical day while others appeared to be more alert and watchful.

Dunmire returned a day early from his trip because most of the sites he and others wanted to see were closed. He has continued to watch coverage of the attacks.

The group was about 3.5 miles from one attack and another was about 8 miles away. He said he’s thankful and feels fortunate that no one in the group was injured or killed during the attacks.

“Even though this horrible act happened, the first part of the trip was incredible,” Dunmire said. “It was nice because we had people there that we knew, that we cared about, and we were all looking out for each other.”

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