Bastille Day in Nice, France: Anguish in­stead of cel­e­bra­tion

A year af­ter truck at­tack, me­mo­rial ser­vices re­place usual fes­tiv­i­ties

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Elena Ber­ton

NICE, FRANCE While most of France cel­e­brates Bastille Day on Fri­day, Em­i­lie Petit­jean will mourn the death of her 10- yearold son, Ro­main, one of 86 vic­tims in last year’s truck ram­page through a hol­i­day crowd on this French Riviera re­sort.

“The ap­proach of July 14 is bring­ing back night­mares and an­guished feel­ings that I thought I had over­come,” Petit­jean said. “For those who have lost fam­ily members, there are scars that will never be healed.”

Dur­ing last year’s Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tion on the Prom­e­nade des Anglais along the Mediter­ranean Sea, a Tu­nisian- born French res­i­dent, Mo­hamed La­houaiejBouh­lel, 31, mowed down hundreds of peo­ple with a 19- ton truck shortly af­ter the fire­works ended. Be­sides those killed, 435 were in­jured.

Today, the prom­e­nade shows no ob­vi­ous scars. Older tourists in el­e­gant straw hats sit on the iconic blue metal chairs that face the azure sea — the ul­ti­mate sym­bol of re­lax­ation in Nice — as fam­i­lies and gag­gles of teenagers linger while eat­ing ice cream on their way from the beach.

The open- air cafes buzz with chat­ter and mu­sic. Still, things are dif­fer­ent.

To com­mem­o­rate the first an­niver­sary of the at­tack, tra­di­tional Bastille Day fes­tiv­i­ties in Nice and neigh­bor­ing towns have been sus­pended or post­poned this year.

In­stead, a me­mo­rial cer­e­mony will be held Fri­day af­ter­noon in the ma­jes­tic Place Massena, the main square, fol­lowed by a con­cert by the Nice Phil­har­monic Orches­tra.

The seafront at the Quai des Etats- Unis will not be as lively — it will be­come a scene of re­mem­brance all day Fri­day. And French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron and his two pre­de­ces­sors, François Hol­lande and Ni­co­las Sarkozy, will at­tend the somber cer­e­mony. Af­ter­ward they will meet with the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies in pri­vate.

For Petit­jean, it won’t be the usual hol­i­day of fire­works and food with her fam­ily. It will in­stead be the cul­mi­na­tion of months of plan­ning for the an­niver­sary cer­e­mony, be­cause she is pres­i­dent of the Prom­e­nade des Anglais vic­tims as­so­ci­a­tion.

Still, for those who lost fam­ily members or were se­ri­ously in­jured, no me­mo­rial can heal the wounds left by that day, much less the shock of what hap­pened.

Last year, Greg Krentz­man and his fam­ily were vis­it­ing Nice from Cul­ver City, Calif., and were at the Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tions. A year later, Krentz­man, his wife and 10- year- old daugh­ter, Lola, are again here but aren’t sure they want to at­tend the cer­e­monies.

“My wife is a lit­tle bit ner­vous,” Krentz­man said about his French wife, So­phie. “There’s a big crowd and she’s hop­ing there will be se­cu­rity in place.”

While So­phie and Lola were able to avoid the truck, Krentz­man’s right leg was crushed by the im­pact, re­quir­ing a lengthy hos­pi­tal stay in Nice. The at­tack left him with hefty med­i­cal bills and un­able to work for sev­eral months.

“My daugh­ter is young and doesn’t re­mem­ber the in­ci­dent so well, but my wife and I re­mem­ber it pretty well. It has also hit my wife closely be­cause she’s from Nice,” he said.

“It’s been a strug­gle. Some days are bet­ter than oth­ers,” he added. “We are cer­tainly bet­ter now be­cause time does heal, but it’s still on our minds a lot. These things take a while to move from.”

That’s some­thing Nice’s Mus­lim com­mu­nity knows well: One- third of those killed were Mus­lims.

Fa­tima Char­rihi, 62, a grand­mother of Moroc­can ori­gin, was La­houaiej-Bouh­lel’s first vic­tim.

“The peo­ple who do these things don’t have any hu­man­ity. They don’t want us to live to­gether,” said her daugh­ter, Hanane Char­rihi, 28.

Her pain was com­pounded by the re­ac­tion she and her fam­ily faced af­ter the at­tack: Some res­i­dents heck­led them on the streets as a “band of ter­ror­ists.”

“But the de­gree of sup­port I have re­ceived has largely can­celed out the three or four neg­a­tive com­ments I had,” she added.

Mean­while, city lead­ers say Nice has shown its true face since the at­tack.

“The city has been re­silient. It has re­built it­self calmly and pru­dently, show­ing respect for every­one,” said Deputy Mayor Philippe Pradal. “The val­ues of the repub­lic are stronger than those who want to di­vide us.”


Greg Krentz­man of Cal­i­for­nia, left, and Gae­tano Moscato of Italy were in­jured in Nice when some­one drove a truck through a crowd last year.


Fa­tima Char­rihi, left, was the at­tacker’s first vic­tim.

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