Lakeland residents recall being in Paris during attacks
Lakeland resident Chris McLaughlin thought Paris would be the perfect place to propose to his girlfriend Brandi Smith. He did it in Paris on Thursday, and thought he was on top of the world.
The couple was about to celebrate on Friday at an upscale restaurant in the Eiffel Tower when the city turned into chaos.
Smith saw dozens of police cars with sirens blaring and lights flashing pour into the street below.
Phones began alerting with the news that Paris was under attack by terrorists.
"It was a surreal experience," McLaughlin told FOX 13. "But at the same time, we were trying to stay calm and not panic."
They learned about one incident after the other and the death toll kept climbing.
The atmosphere in the restaurant quickly went from jovial to somber. The bad news just kept coming in.
"We didn't realize the extent of it until other people were sending text messages saying there's multiple attacks," said McLaughlin.
When the couple left the restaurant, they walked into an eerie situation on the street.
"We came out and there was nobody," Smith said.
With a sense of uneasiness, they were driven back to their hotel, and even there, tension was high.
"They were checking hotel room keys and encouraging us to go back to our room," said Smith.
In the middle of the night, their calm was disturbed again when the front desk called to make sure they were OK.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think on my engagement weekend, this would happen," said McLaughlin.