November 16, 2015 - 4:26 PM
KAMLOOPS - A local business owner is thankful to be alive and home today, Nov. 16 following a work trip that turned tumultuous after he found himself at a downtown restaurant close to the targeted attack in Paris on Friday, Nov. 13.
Mike Miltimore says he was on a trip for his Kamloops-based guitar company Riversong Guitars and had just arrived in the French capital from Switzerland the night of the attacks. A friend picked him up from the train station and took him to a nearby hotel to drop off his bags and four guitars.
“He asked me what I wanted to do — if I wanted to go for some drinks and some good food or to an authentic French restaurant,” Miltimore says. Since he was only in the city for a short while, Miltimore chose authentic and says he is relieved with the choice he made, as the other option was a restaurant that was shot up that night. They were supposed to go there following their dinner as Miltimore's friend knew the owner.
The attacks, which the terrorist group ISIS has now claimed responsibility for, killed 129 victims via suicide bombings and shootings in several locations throughout the downtown core.
Miltimore says while he was eating dinner and enjoying the visit with his friend he heard a couple of shots ring out in the street.
"I said 'that sounds like gunshots' and he said ‘no, it’s probably firecrackers’. I could see some people running. I heard all the police sirens,” Miltimore says.
"Then the police came in and was talking to the owner of the restaurant and shut down the restaurant and asked us all to leave,” he adds. “I’m not sure if it was safer in the restaurant or to leave."
“All we knew was some crazy guy on a scooter was shooting up a restaurant. We didn’t know if he was still out there. (During) the trip back to the hotel we were keeping a very strong eye out for anyone on scooters.
"We got back to the hotel and that’s when we start to hear about what was going on with the hostage situation. We heard there was a bomb at the soccer stadium. Of what was going on, we were part of but not the most direct part thankfully."
Miltimore says he called his parents and his wife to tell them he was safe before spending the night at his hotel.
The next morning was a somber one in the city, Miltimore says. When he went for breakfast he realized there was only one person who showed up to work that day; everyone else stayed home.
"The feeling was disbelief and heartbreak. I don’t speak French but you could feel it in the air what’s going on,” he says. “You can’t prepare yourself for something like that; it was a perfect night in Paris. There was no sign that anything like that was going to happen.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015