France com­mem­o­rates vic­tims of 2016 ter­ror­ist at­tack in Nice

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - ALISSA J. RU­BIN AND AURELIEN BREEDEN In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Me­gan Spe­cia of The New York Times.

NICE, France — Thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered Fri­day in the Mediter­ranean city of Nice to re­mem­ber the 86 vic­tims killed a year ago when a ter­ror­ist drove through Bastille Day crowds on the city’s fa­mous sea­side prom­e­nade.

Around 10:30 p.m. on July 14, 2016, Mo­hamed La­houaiej Bouh­lel, 31, swerved a 19-ton rental truck onto the side­walk of the Prom­e­nade des Anglais and ca­reened into crowds as they were leav­ing the an­nual fire­works dis­play.

Dur­ing a three-hour cer­e­mony Fri­day evening, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron spoke, as did the city’s mayor, Chris­tian Estrosi. The names of those who died dur­ing the ram­page were read out loud and posted on a board to form a heart.

“A truck hur­tled into the crowd and tore France apart,” said Pauline Mur­ris, whose cousin died in the at­tack. “The wave of death was ter­ri­ble, enough to si­lence its own echo. We will never find the words.”

Dozens of dig­ni­taries were present, in­clud­ing the two most re­cent for­mer pres­i­dents, Fran­cois Hol­lande and Ni­co­las Sarkozy.

The pub­lic event in­cluded hon­ors for po­lice of­fi­cers and emer­gency med­i­cal work­ers as well as civil­ians who tried to stop the truck.

Some com­men­ta­tors and area fig­ures have lamented that Nice’s tragedy was given less na­tional at­ten­tion than the at­tacks in and around Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, that killed 130 peo­ple and the at­tacks at the satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Char­lie Hebdo and other lo­ca­tions that killed 17 peo­ple in Jan­uary of that year.

Al­though tourism has re­bounded and peo­ple of­ten re­peat the mantra “life must go on,” res­i­dents have strug­gled to get over the at­tack’s bru­tal­ity.

For fam­i­lies who lost sons or daugh­ters, wives or grand­par­ents, broth­ers or sis­ters and for many Nice na­tives — even those who were not touched di­rectly — the scars go deep, as they do for the 450 peo­ple who were wounded in the at­tack.

Some of those who were in­jured at­tended the cer­e­mony, where they leaned on canes, were pushed in wheel­chairs or walked on their own but were still cop­ing with the af­ter­ef­fects of in­ter­nal in­juries.

For some, it is too painful to go back.

“I left the city, and I’m liv­ing in the Ca­nary Is­lands now,” said Em­i­lie Brom­ley, who was on the prom­e­nade when the at­tack oc­curred.

“Hon­estly, I feel weird about it,” Brom­ley said. “In the Ca­nary Is­lands it is a reg­u­lar day, but for me it is not. My body is still on alert each time that I’m hear­ing the noise of fire­works. I will pre­fer to not cel­e­brate this year.”

For Samih Abid, a Nice na­tive and a lawyer who was not far from the prom­e­nade on the night of the at­tack, there is a sense that lit­tle has changed and that an op­por­tu­nity has been missed for bring­ing to­gether the city’s of­ten deeply di­vided Mus­lim and non-Mus­lim pop­u­la­tions.

“The vi­o­lence was blind and stupid, but one-third of the vic­tims were Mus­lims or from Mus­lim cul­ture,” he said. “So one is both a vic­tim and one is still stig­ma­tized be­cause it was a Tu­nisian of Mus­lim ori­gins who did this.” He skipped Fri­day’s cer­e­mony, in­stead tak­ing his fam­ily out­side the city.

Many Nice res­i­dents and vic­tims’ as­so­ci­a­tions con­tend that na­tional and area au­thor­i­ties failed to pro­vide ad­e­quate se­cu­rity for last year’s Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tion and that they missed glar­ing signs — caught on Nice’s ex­ten­sive video sur­veil­lance net­work — that La­houaiej Bouh­lel had on sev­eral oc­ca­sions been scout­ing out the prom­e­nade.

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