Sciences Po is a conglomerate of 60 nationalites, coming from 130 different countries, speaking more than 17 languages. We are literally a community open to the world, where students come and leave pieces of their culture within the walls of 27 St Guillaume and in return, Sciences Po sends their brightest to leave footprints across the world. Sciences Po becomes our home, and we become family. We never imagine on our year abroad, for most of us the year of our lives, that something as tragic as an apartment fire can take it all away. Parents don’t ever expect that the moment they send their child off to conquer their dreams might be the last time they’ll ever see them again.
Last Thursday, three Sciences Po students were victims of a fatal fire. Jasmine Jahanshahi, from the University of California Berkley ; Louise Odette Brown, from the University of New South Wales, Sydney were tragically killed attempting to escape the flames from of a Paris apartment. A third student, Grace Flott from Washing University in Seattle is currently hospitalized in critical condition. Two other students from La Sorbonne perished in the similar manner. It is heart wrenching to imagine that these students were forced to perish in the flames or take a leap of faith from the fifth story. Out of the nine students who jumped, four were fatally injured. This tragedy strikes so close to home and it is almost unbelievable that such a thing could happen to peers at our own university. But what begs the question is, why wasn’t there a fire escape or an alarm?
A Facebook page has been set up establishing a non profit in the name of Jasmine. The Jasmine Jahanshahi Fire Safety Foundation, Inc. has recently petitioned the mayor of the 20th arrondissement to raise fire safety awareness. They have succesfully recieved a response from Frederieuqe Calandra : It is too soon to conclude that this tragedy is the result of a failure of these regulations. A judicial investigation is underway…Of course, if it is clearly established that the Paris fire regulations are to blame, I’ll be the first to ask for their revision.
Sciences Po held a memorial Monday, April 18 where 500 came to show their support and respects. Here, there was no language that could express the sorrow that filled the amphitheater. There were no words, in english nor french, that could depict the pain. It was this day that the strength of students and the unity of the Sciences Po community was tested. Chris Newfield, director of the University of California abroad program in Paris, remembered Jasmine as someone with a fierce determination to help others and an unwavering determination to succeed. Jasmine’s father, although he could not be there, relayed a message, I could not ask for a better daughter. One student spoke about Louise’s modesty and kindness- I often wondered if it was possible for anyone to hate her. Grace’s father took the last parole and reminded the theater that Grace feels warm sentiments and we should continue sending our thoughts for a swift recovery. It was unmistakable these girls were loved and admired, they will not only be missed at Sciences Po but in the international community.
This is a cruel loss to the Sciences Po community, and a thousand fold more for the victims’ families. On behalf of the Peniche staff, our hearts and thoughts go out to them in this difficult time. We send our brightest memories and most perservering of spirits in hopes that they may light tomorrow’s darkness. As vast our differences- we speak one language, we are one culture, and our hearts are one in the same. This is why the loss of these students burns so deep in our cores, because we are them in every way- their aspirations are ours, and our home here in Paris was also theirs. Our dreams are vibrations of those around us, and our souls live within those we touch. For Jasmine and Louise, let’s continue their torch and light up our parts of the world with their vision.