Three junior rugby league players from Southcity Bulls managed to escape Paris the day before co-ordinated terror attacks rocked the French capital, killing more than 150 people.
Josh Siegwalt, and brothers Cody and Tyson Hodge have been travelling with the NSWRL under-17 Indigenous Young Achievers side, arriving in Paris last Monday ahead of a 19-day tour of France and Italy.
The tour left Paris on Friday (Australian time) bound for the southern French town of Perpignan, narrowly avoiding the worst terror attacks in the country’s history.
Geoff Simpson, the father of Cody and Tyson, and Josh’s uncle, told the Advertiser on Saturday afternoon he was relieved to know they had left Paris before the attacks.
He had spoken to them the night prior to the attacks, where the boys told him they were leaving Paris and heading south.
“I’d hate to be waking up (on Saturday) seeing that news … I don’t know how big Paris is, but I know they’ve done all the touristy stuff early in the week and who knows,” Mr Simpson said.
“To wake up this morning to see that I’m thinking, ‘thank God they’re not there’.”
Mr Simpson admitted the boys were lucky – had their stay in Paris extended just one extra day or the attacks taken place earlier in the week, they could have been caught up in the carnage.
His son Tyson has been writing a blog for the NSWRL website about the tour.
The day prior to the attacks, he wrote of his excitement of seeing some of the city’s famous sights.
“Seeing the Eiffel Tower and all the other historical sites of Paris has made me realise just how big the world really is compared to Wagga,” Tyson wrote.
Closer to home, Wagga’s French community was left reeling as news of the attacks filtered through.
Annie Adriaenssens, originally from the northern French town of Roubaix, has lived in Wagga for more than two decades, was left in shock when she found out what happened.
“I didn’t realise how bad it was until my children called me and said, ‘watch the TV’,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. Why is it happening in France again?”
Ms Adriaenssens is planning to travel to France over Christmas – though she has yet to book her flights – with her daughter, who will be spending the first half of next year studying at university there, and admits she’s scared about returning home following the attacks.