Tampa residents visiting Paris share their experiences


PARIS (WFLA) – Facebook photos show St. Petersburg students smiling before their departure for a trip to Monaco and France. The students may be spending more time overseas than planned because of Friday’s shootings and bombings in Paris.

Ten students and three teachers from the private Canterbury School of Florida are holed up in a Paris motel.

They spent time in Monaco after an alumni of the school won first place in the BLUE Ocean Film Festival. The former student made a documentary about the lionfish in the Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf. The film was created as part of the school’s marine studies program.

The students also participated in an exchange program with students in Monaco. Their celebration has now come to a halt as they learned of the terrorist attacks and wonder when they will be able to return home.

Meanwhile, Chris McLaughlin and his fiancé Brandi Smith, of Lakeland, were in Paris celebrating their engagement. McLaughlin proposed to Smith Thursday night. Friday night they were having dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower when they noticed dozens of police and emergency vehicles racing by them in the streets below.

Chris McLaughlin and Brandi Smith (Chris McLaughlin photo via Facebook)
Chris McLaughlin and Brandi Smith (Chris McLaughlin photo via Facebook)

“The attention went to outside and why there were police cars, the numbers that there were,” McLaughlin said. “It wasn’t two or three or four … Literally, there was like a hundred.”

McLaughlin and Smith were able to make it safely back to their hotel room and were told not to leave as a safety precaution. McLaughlin said they had plans to see U2 in concert Saturday night, but, late Friday, U2 announced the show has been postponed.

The couple is scheduled to leave Paris and return to Florida on Sunday.

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