As scenes of violence unfolded across Paris, San Diegans with ties to France were glued to the news Friday, watching as the death toll rose throughout the night.
At least 129 people were killed in the worst attacks on France since World War II. Americans were among the 352 wounded, the State Department said on Saturday. French President Francois Hollande vowed a "merciless" response against the perpetrators, as ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attacks.
“The first thing I thought about was checking on my brothers that live there,” said Thomas Bardin, who manages Au Revoir French Bistro in San Diego.
Throughout the day, customers called, texted, messaged and physically came to see Bardin to find out how he and his loved ones were doing.
His family is okay, but Bardin said his heart aches for his home country.
“People are wondering what’s happening and how to react and they don’t know, is there any other event that’s going to come up?” he asked.
Eli Mahfouz returned home to Paris last month after two years of working in San Diego. He drove downtown Friday night to meet with friends, not knowing there’d been at least six coordinated terror attacks.
One of the terrorists was killed by police, and the others blew themselves up, authorities said.
“Everyone is at home and everyone is scared,” said Mahfouz of the current atmosphere. “I’ve never seen my city like that ever before.”
Members of the intelligence community in San Diego called the attacks a game changer. They are concerned the war in Syria could be spreading beyond the Middle East country’s borders.
“We should be looking at ISIS, al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood or a collaboration of those,” said terror expert and retired Marine Col. Gary Wilson.
He said the talk among his intelligence community is that a commando-style attack was to be expected.
Automatic weapons and explosives in the hands of a small number of militants was the strategy in Paris, and while the death toll is not as high as a 9/11-type of attack, it still has the desired effect on the local community.
“It creates a sense of insecurity that far exceeds the reality,” said Dr. Dipka Gupta, a San Diego counterterrorism consultant.
The experts are concerned that these kinds of ground assaults on civilians will not be exclusive to European cities.
The FBI’s San Diego bureau sent NBC 7 this response when asked about the violence in France:
"The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are closely monitoring the unfolding events in Paris and we remain in contact with our counterparts in the region. At this time, there is no specific or credible threat to the United States. We will not hesitate to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people. DHS and the FBI routinely share information with our state, local, federal and international law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security partners, and continually evaluate the level of protection we provide at federal facilities."
Mahfouz said he is amazed to see the show of solidarity on social media from across the globe.
His world is forever changed, but his resolve is strengthened.
“Those people tried to hurt us,” he said. “They can hurt us, but they will never bring us down.”