Students at schools near the scene of the terror siege spent several hours on lockdown Friday as police swarmed the French town where the Charlie Hebdo massacre suspects were believed to be holding at least one person hostage.
About 500 students, mostly aged from 16 and 18, were kept inside the Lycee Charles de Gaulle high school on the edge of the town of Dammartin–en-Goele, which was surrounded by armed police as authorities cornered the suspects.
Some used cellphones to call or send messages to friends and parents.
"We are all scared," Angelina Monzili, 16, told NBC News. "The teachers are with us, making sure were calm. I have spoken to my mother, father and brother."
She added: "It's really shocking, we came to school expecting a normal day. We were told that the terrorists are really close. Our families are worried about us. We saw police cars flying past, and ambulances."
Authorities eventually evacuated students from all the area schools, taking them to a nearby gymnasium where they could be collected by parents.
The town is surrounded by armed police, student Marion Genay told NBC News via Twitter. "There is a very tense atmosphere, being locked in the high school,"she said.
Earlier, she posted: "May God protect us and give assistance to hostages."
Another 16-year-old student, who said her name was Andrea, posted: “I’m not afraid, we are safe, do not worry.”
Around 1,000 students normally attend the school but teachers were able to make some telephone calls to warn people not to come, according to a receptionist who identified herself as Mme. Dominguez.
“We are not allowing anyone in, including parents,” she said. “Students are allowed to use phones to contact family to reassure them that everything is fine. Most are calm, some are crying.”
Only a day earlier, students had created their own tributes to the victims of Wednesday's magazine massacre in Paris, with posters on the wall declaring "Je Suis Charlie" in solidarity with the victims.
The official town website of Dammartin-en-Goele ordered residents told to stay indoors. “Police operation in progress,” said a statement on the homepage. “All residents are required to stay at home. The children are confined and secure in schools.”
NBC News' Nikolai Miller contributed to this report.