Montclair State University student recalls harrowing night in Nice

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Friday, July 15, 2016
Montclair State student recalls harrowing night in Nice
Anthony Johnson has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A group of students from Montclair State University in New Jersey were in Nice for the Bastille Day attack as part of a program with their school.

All eight students are safe, and one of them spoke to Eyewitness News via Skype Friday. Amanda Williams is in France as part of the Montclair-in-Nice program.

"When we looked behind us there was a pack of people running and just rushing, so we decided to run as well," she said. "We didn't know where we were going, but they were saying there's a man with a gun. We thought it was someone on was scary because 30 minutes after, we all checked our phones to see what was going on, and they said a truck, where we were just three minutes before it happened, just ran over people."

Williams was visibly upset and broke down repeatedly during the call, particularly when talking about her parents and her struggle to contact them.

"To me, I think the scariest thing was not being able to get in contact with my family at first," she said. "Because a lot of people were trying to get in contact with people oversees, or their family. But I couldn't get anyone."

She and her friends were aided by a couple who allowed them into their apartment.

"We started knocking everyone's door, but many people were on the beach," she said. "We were lucky we found this Dutch couple outside smoking. We said, 'Can you please help us, we don't know where to go. Can we please stay inside until we know what's going on?' We got up there, and there were nine other people with us, light off, doors locked, curtain closed."

They remained in the apartment, unsure of the future.

"Honestly, I didn't think I was going to see today," she said. "I can't explain the fear on people's faces...we really didn't think we were going to live that night."

Williams was eventually able to get in touch with relatives.

"I told (my mom) that there was an attack, and she thought it was a joke," she said. "I kept her on the phone for two hours and said, 'Please don't hang up. Please stay here with me until we know what's going on. We didn't know it was one man. We thought it was a mass, a group of people."

She also posted on Facebook about the ordeal.

Montclair State University Director of Media Relations released the following statement confirming that all students were accounted for and safe:

"Our students and faculty are safe and unharmed and are in close contact with the State Department and University officials."