Lakeland couple returns from Paris after attacks

Chris McLaughlin and Brandi Smith (Chris McLaughlin photo via Facebook)

LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) – A Lakeland couple celebrating their proposal in Paris got caught in the thick of the chaos brought by the terrorist attacks Friday night.

The couple, who returned back to Lakeland safely Sunday, was dining at the top of the Eiffel Tower when blue lights became a constant blur outside the restaurant window.

PHOTOS: Paris terror attacks 

Chris McLaughlin and Brandi Smith are thankful to be back on US soil. Their trip to Paris started so joyous but quickly turned fearful. Topics of life, love, and their future together filled their conversations after Chris asked for her hand in marriage Thursday.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of how that turned out,” McLaughlin said.  “She said, ‘yes,’” he smiled.

But minutes into their dinner celebration Friday night, fear set in as they looked out the window and saw a line of police and ambulances flying by. Minutes later their phones began buzzing.  Friends back home were getting reports of the bombings that would go on to kill 129 people and injure hundreds more; they wanted to know the couple was safe.

“I started thinking to myself, ‘holy cow, we are in the number one terrorist location atop the Eiffel Tower in all of Paris and all of France,’ and that’s when I knew we needed to get out of there,” McLaughlin said.

The couple hurried to get back to their hotel, where they spent the next hours glued to the coverage of what was unfolding around them. The events will forever be attached to a weekend meant for carefree kind of happiness.  But Chris believes it was the first of many tests bound to come their way.

“Every relationship has its highs and its lows and I think it’s how you get through it that makes a difference,” McLaughlin said.

Chris and Brandi said they’ll certainly return to Paris. Refusing to do so, they believe, would be letting the terrorists win.

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