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A NEW YEAR'S EVE TO REMEMBER

by..... JHENSONJ

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Our family (three of us) spent Christmas through January 2nd in Paris. This started as a graduation trip for our daughter (yay! - graduated from university AND landed a position that starts in January). Elizabeth has been to England several times, but in spite of 6 years of French, has never been to France. This is the second trip for Bill and me. It was fun showing Liz all the sights - in spite of the fact that she's never taken an art history course in her life (definitely not my genes), she thoroughly enjoyed the museums and magnificent architecture. We partook of excellent meals and met our friends who live near Paris for a wonderful evening. All in all,-a memorable trip just for those reasons. However,we did have an adventure on New Years Eve that could just have overshadowed all those good memories.

Liz had came down with a slight cold, so on the 31st, we got a fairly late start to visit Pere Lachaise cemetery (had to pay respects to Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf). After that we got on to a very crowded metro and headed back to the the Charles deGaulle Etoile metro stop on the Champs-Elysees.

We were just going to pop in to the "festivities" on the Champs-Elysees, leave early and get back to our hotel (in the 15th arrondissment). Well, we got a table at a little Italian restaurant about 7 PM and then walked a couple of blocks in the direction of the Place de la Concord. Bill (anglophile who runs a website on London Pubs) spotted a little English Pub on a side street and wanted to go in for a drink. Liz and Bill got into a group of Liverpudlians celebrating the New Year and while I kept saying we have to get out of here, catch the metro at Charles deGaulle Etoile before it closes and get home - they kept talking. I began to notice all the police and national guard being trucked in The main boulevard was closed to vehicles until after midnight. At 11:45 PM I finally got them out of there - we headed towards the metro station (about 5 blocks away).

We never ever saw what was coming. The surging crowds (of at least 150,000 in that area) pushed us apart and that was the last I saw of Elizabeth for 3 1/2 hours. I heard her scream and then she was gone. We stayed near the (now closed) metro station - I just kept standing, Bill kept wandering off looking. Nothing. I was in shock - numb (the weather was about 30 degrees). He came back one time and said his wallet with all his credit cards and about $200 was missing. Damn damn damn. But...he started getting weirded out - kept saying it didn't matter how much we lost if Elizabeth was gone. I kept trying not to cry. Finally, about 2:30 AM he said he was just going to keep walking and wouldn't return without her. I stayed (fought off what had to be a truly desperate French guy about 25 years old who kept trying to kiss me and take my arm) with terrible thoughts just tumbling through my head.

I watched a group of Arabs wave some sort of Arab flag and chant - the police leaped over the barriers with batons and broke them up. People kept throwing lit firecrackers into the crowds. People were drinking champagne directly from bottles and then throwing the bottles anywhere to break them. It was scary. I kept thinking that I am standing near one of the most famous sights in the world - the Arc de Triomphe with the circular boulevard around it. I'm standing here in the middle of the night and my child (age 22, I know, but still my child) is missing. I was a mess.

Finally, at 3:30 AM I saw Bill coming back with Elizabeth. She had become disoriented - someone put her on the opposite side of the street after rescuing her from two guys who grabbed on to her by each arm, and she kept walking . Found a police officer and was told to head towards the commissariat near the Place de la Concord. She made it there and sat for a couple of hours with other displaced persons. She had no passport, no money, no tube passes (husband is a control freak - keeps everything). They let her call the hotel, but since we weren't there it didn't do any good. Well, Bill found his own way to there- thanks to his fractured French and very understanding police officers - and they reunited. Then they had to come back to find me. You can imagine the reunion. We had to walk all the way back to our hotel in the 15th. Got back about 4:15 AM, Bill spent the next hour and half on the phone trying to cancel his debit and credit cards.

We're very grateful to the French police for sheltering her and to all the sympathetic people who spoke with us during the evening. We won't forget this for a long time.

If you would like to have an article of yours appear here, send it along to me. The standard incredible offer remains. If chosen, your name will be entered in a lottery to win 50 used and utterly useless metro tickets.
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