Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
DENVER â?? It made parents worry for their children studying abroad. It sent a shiver of fear into plans for vacations to France. Cafes and nightclubs in Miami or Los Angeles felt newly vulnerable, not so different from the bloody scenes unfolding on peopleâ??s phones and televisions. For Americans accustomed to tuning out foreign conflicts, it brought the world crashing in.
Few terrorist attacks in foreign lands have seized the attention of this country like the carnage in the streets of Paris, a city an ocean away but glittering in the memories of countless American honeymoons, junior years abroad and bucket-list vacations.
In the last week, the attacks have pushed global terrorism and the Islamic State to the front lines of worry for many Americans who have taken to social media in record numbers to track wall-to-wall coverage of a cosmopolitan city transformed into a war zone.
Police Discount Any Threat to New YorkNOV. 20, 2015
It all felt so familiar, people said in more than three dozen interviews across America â?? like it could easily have been a restaurant or bar in their neighborhood.
Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
â??Itâ??s incredibly scary,â? said Katy Neusteter, who works for an environmental advocacy group in Boulder, Colo., and is flying to Paris next week for a climate conference. She said each new email exchange or video conference with colleagues now began with a somber mention of the latest unsettling news.
Dorcas Guest-Nelson, a part-time nurse in Phoenix, said that her eldest son, Jay, 20, had just been to Paris and that she had cousins who lived in London.
â??I feel France is more similar to us,â? she said. â??When I think about Africa, I think about coups and genocide, about crazy dictators and whoâ??s in charge. Iâ??m not saying that I wasnâ??t affected by what happened in Kenya â?? those were innocent people, too,â? she said, referring to the attack in April by Shabab militants that killed 147 people at a Kenyan university. â??But France was different,â? she said. â??It was, like, I could have been there. My son could have been there. I could be the one sitting outside on a cafe and getting sprayed by bullets.â?
The attacks shook Americans who know France intimately as well as those who had only seen pictures of the Eiffel Tower.
Across the country, people attended solidarity marches for France, bathed public buildings in the French tricolor and pondered whether they should cancel their travel plans.
Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times
Several church members, including the interim pastor, Gerald Gordon, said they were watching the news from Paris intently. They knew that a place like Raleigh would not be on anyoneâ??s list of targets for terrorism. But they did not reject the possibility that other, more populated places in Mississippi might be. Some mentioned the arrest, in August, of two Mississippi State students who authorities said had been trying to join the Islamic State.
â??We are very concerned,â? said Ann Butler, 58, a fourth-grade science teacher. â??Because we just feel like itâ??s a matter of time before itâ??s going to happen here. We believe our borders are not secure enough.â?
Beth Crumpton, 76, a retired schoolteacher, said that she supported the effort by Gov. Phil Bryant and other governors around the country to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees. â??Itâ??s not because Iâ??m a raving rebel from the South,â? she said. â??Itâ??s because we donâ??t have time to check them out.â?
People had other questions. Where would the Islamic State strike next? Could any American cities be targeted? American officials have said there is no credible intelligence that the Islamic State or any other group is plotting an attack inside the country. Would the attacks lead the United States military deeper into another conflict in the Middle East?
â??It will get much worse before it gets better,â? said Douglas Whitcomb, the owner of a food service business from Long Island who was visiting his son in Massachusetts. â??Because the free world has not adequately come up with a strategy to deal with this. You cannot placate madness.â?
Credit William Widmer for The New York Times
Among posts by major Internet and media companies, Paris has been the only news event to register among the yearâ??s Top 20 stories, as measured by likes, shares, and other actions on Facebook and Twitter, according to data from TrackMaven, a marketing analytics tool, that was analyzed by The New York Times. The rest of the top stories of the year were entertainment-related, memes or viral stories. Similarly, viewership of television news spiked the first night of the attacks and stayed high through the week.
Not everyone expressed worry, or was even paying special attention. They had been spectators to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the marathon bombing in Boston, bombings in London and Madrid and too many mass American shootings to list.
In Seattle, Robb Crowe, 54, a social worker, said he was more worried about a rise in muggings and assaults in his Capitol Hill neighborhood. He had avoided learning too much about Paris.
â??Itâ??s kind of like, â??not again,â??Â â? he said. â??There have been so many incidents over the last year, Iâ??m just kind of overwhelmed by it.â?
The attacks also stirred anger and hatred. In Englewood, Colo., vandals threw a rock through the sign of Isis Books & Gifts, a 35-year-old business named for the Egyptian god. Muslim groups said they had tallied a rash of threats and vandalism in the days after the attacks, including an Eiffel Tower symbol spray-painted onto the side of a Nebraska mosque.
Credit Erin Hull for The New York Times
When members of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville, outside of Austin, Tex., arrived for morning prayers on Monday, they saw pages of the Quran covered with feces littering the entrance. It was the first vandalism there since the mosque opened in a strip mall three years ago.
â??We had our guard down,â? said Faisal Naeem, a board member at the mosque. â??We were like, â??Itâ??s not going to happen.â?? But that concept of an oasis is no longer there.â?
Many of the people who felt the most shaken by news of the attacks had European connections. French expatriates said they watched the aftermath of the attacks on French channels on cable TV and scoured social media to see if friends and family were safe. Janet Poth, an owner of a French bistro in Denver, raised three sons in Paris and planned to fly back in two weeks. She said the attacks would not deter her.
â??It is a city that I absolutely love,â? she said. She had been in France when 12 people were killed in an attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper. â??Youâ??re thinking, â??Is there going to be a third? Is it going to continue?â??Â â?
Julie Curtiss, 33, a painter from Paris who now lives in Brooklyn, said the killings deeply unsettled her because the victims were her peers. Last Friday, she anxiously scrolled through Facebook as her friends in the neighborhood of the attack all checked in as safe, except for one classmate. He had gone to the Bataclan concert hall, and died there.
â??It feels like the beginning of something bigger, a war that doesnâ??t have frontiers, something that doesnâ??t have barriers,â? she said.
While travel businesses expressed concern about a decline in tourism, not one person in interviews intended to cancel travel plans to Europe or steer clear of Paris. Richard and Diana Newton, a retired couple who live part of the year in Seattle and part of the year in Spain, and said they were not going to change plans to fly to Spain in February for a three-month stay in Valencia.
â??You canâ??t say to yourself, â??Hey, Iâ??m going to sit in my chair and watch TV,â??Â â? Mr. Newton said. â??And you donâ??t stop walking the street because you might get mugged.â?
An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to George Gordon of the First Baptist Church in Raleigh, Miss. He is the interim pastor, not the pastor.