‘Divine intervention:’ GVSU students escape violence in France

Posted at 5:22 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 17:23:22-04

NICE, France — Professors at Grand Valley State are calling it "divine intervention" after a group of students escaped the chaos in Nice, France just moments before the violence.

All 18 students studying abroad are safe, including two professors traveling with them, Professor Carol Wilson and Professor Dan Golembeski. Wilson remembers the horror surrounding the attack that left more than 80 dead and 200 others injured.

"People started running into the passage way from the Promenade Des Anglais and from the other direction further down," Wilson said. "The thing that struck me were how frightened the children were. Many of the kids were kind of terrified with parents trying to calm them down and get them to safety."

As for the GVSU group, many were on the city's famous boardwalk just moments before the violence.

"All of us are safe and free from injury because of several different coincidences, I guess you could say divine coincidences," said Wilson.

One girl left the scene to get wine, others left a few minutes earlier than expected. Wilson says all 18 are safe and accounted for thanks to the help of strangers following the violence.

"Taxis were giving free rides, strangers were welcoming students into apartments, restaurants, or hotels to stay safe," said Wilson.

Faculty in West Michigan say they're doing everything they can to ensure their safety for the remainder of the trip.

"Unfortunately these days are at risk wherever they are," said Mark Schaub the Chief International Officer at GVSU. "They're safe and in a good location. Obviously they are going to have to individually and collectively process this horrible experience."

While the scene last night was sheer terror, professor Wilson said that Nice is quickly finding strength to move forward. People are moving in the streets and going to the beach but the feeling of safety is nothing more than a facade.

"They’re just not feeling safe, feeling like something could go wrong at any moment so their anxiety levels are pretty high," said Wilson.

We're told there's a large memorial in Nice where people are bringing flowers. A large number of GVSU students are giving blood to those who are in the hospital fighting for their lives. The students have one more week in Nice before heading to Paris.