Walking out of the parking structure where I have parked my car hundreds of times before, I stopped in my tracks. My ears hurt from the deafening silence on the usually noisy, bustling, world-famous Promenade des Anglais. Just seventy-two hours ago, I had visited the city’s 14 juillet, or Bastille Day, celebrations, along with thousands of people from all walks of life and from all around the world —children with their parents, grandparents, friends who had just completed their school year, tourists from all over France, Europe, and the world. Everyone in festive spirits, impatient for the fireworks to begin. None of us aware of what would happen next. That same evening, Nice changed forever. Most of us who live here have never witnessed a terror attack, much less in our own city. What should have been a day of celebration in France ended instead with yet another tragic attack on its people.
Today, I paid my respects. To each and every individual who tragically passed away and their friends and families, who are heartbroken, distraught, and whose lives have been changed forever. To those still battling for their lives. To those who are still missing. To the law enforcement officers. To all the emergency response teams. To all medical personnel. To the good samaritans who opened their doors to fleeing strangers seeking safety.
Flowers, children’s toys, plush animals, French flags, pebbles from the shore, and handwritten notes mark the exact blood-stained spots where innocent human lives were claimed by a man who had no regard for human life. The promenade has turned into a massive memorial spot for mourners. Flags are at half-mast during the three-day national mourning period. Pictures of missing people still plaster walls and lampposts. Groups of people are gathered in different areas on the Promenade des Anglais, all visibly emotional, comforting one another, participating in interfaith prayers, writing notes, and trying to process what happened. Everybody is mourning in their own personal way. What is visible is the strong sense of solidarity of locals and visitors alike.
A senseless act by a man filled with hatred hit the heart of the French Riviera on the French national day. What is sure is that the Promenade des Anglais will never be the same. These images will forever be etched in our memories. If these images could serve one purpose, it would be to never let the evildoers of this world corner us into feeling fear and stop us from living our lives. We must instead live each moment as if it is our last, and spread peace and love to conquer all the hatred and evil in the world. Vive Nissa la bella, and vive la France.