Local News

Apex native studying in Paris starts organization to help refugees

Posted November 17, 2015

— John Yager and his friend Omar Kurdi say they have been spending a lot of time together in their small apartments in Paris following Friday's terrorist attacks.

The two men were out in Paris Friday night, attending an event at a bar with friends when they heard about the gunfire in their city.

"We didn't start worrying until they said, 'Hey, we are closing. You guys should go home,'” Kurdi said.

Kurdi, of Saudi Arabia, said the men started to get nervous and decided to head to his apartment.

"We got word that there was another shooting," he said. "My house was the closest to where we were at, so we took the small roads and went to my house."

Yager, 24, of Apex, is pursuing a master's degree in international affairs and Middle Eastern studies from the Paris Institute of Political Studies. He said his group of about 11 friends is made up of students from several countries, including Spain, Norway and South Africa.

"We were making sure everyone was OK, and it was nice that we could all be together comforting one another," Kurdi said.

Yager said the majority of the night was spent around a small television set watching the French news.

"It is a tragedy across the board, and everyone feels that tragedy," Kurdi said. "Living in Paris, it is obviously very close to us, regardless of where you are from."

Yager and Kurdi started an organization at their school to help refugees. After news spread that at least one of the Paris attackers is said to have gained entry into Europe as a refugee, the two international students knew it would be a hot political topic.

"Immediately after things started to calm down, our first reaction was obviously worry and sympathy for the victims," Yaeger said. "But the second thing...was how this is going to change the discussion around the refugees."

Yager graduated from Apex High School and has been in Paris since August. He said he plans to stay another year.


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