Not Just Another Bastille Day, What I Saw In Nice

Screen shot of police showdown with the driver of the truck
Screen shot of police showdown with the driver of the truck
Damien Allemand*

NICE â€" It was a cool atmosphere, the fireworks were impressive, kids tossing pebbles in the water â€" and the Promenade des Anglais was packed full. Just like every other Bastille Day.

I had chosen to spend the evening on the beach around the High-Club, where the Promenade becomes pedestrian. As soon as the show was over, we all stood up at the same time. Heading for the stairs, all squished like sardines. I was zigzagging between people to reach my scooter, parked nearby.

In the distance, a noise. Screams. My first thought: some smartass wanted to make his own fireworks and lost control.. But no. A fraction of a second later, a huge white truck raced by at a crazy speed, steering hard in order to hit as many people as possible. This truck of death passed just a few feet away from me, and I did not even realize it.

Where is my son?

I saw bodies fly like bowling pins as it passed. I heard screams that I will never forget. Petrified, I did not move. Panic was all around. People were running, screaming, crying. Then, I realized that I should run with them, and started heading toward the Cocodile, where everyone was running to for refuge. I only stayed for a few minutes even if it felt to me like an eternity. "Run for cover". "Don't stay here". "Where is my son ? Where is my son ?" â€" These are just some of the words I heard around me.

Quickly, it was time for me to find out what had happened. I went outside, but the Promenade looked deserted. No noise. No sirens. Not a single car. I then crossed the median to return to where the truck had passed. I ran into Raymond, in his fifties, in tears, who told me: "There are dead people everywhere".

He was right. Right behind him, every 15 feet there were lifeless bodies, body parts... Blood. Whimpering. The beach attendants were first on the scene. They brought water for the injured and towels which they laid where there was no more hope. In that moment, I lost my courage. I wanted to help, offer assistance... in short, do something. But I couldn't.

Soon, a second wave of panic sent me running back to the Cocodile. "He's coming back! He's coming back!" It was a lie. The truck murderer's end came nearby, covered in bullets. I didn't hear any gunshots. Just screams. An now crying. Only crying.

I ran again, straight ahead. I got my scooter to quickly try to get far away from this hell. I went back up the Promenade and I grasped the full extent of the tragedy. Bodies and injured people covered the sidewalk all the way to Lenval. The first ambulances were beginning to arrive...

*Damien Allemand is the digital director of Nice Matin. This piece also appeared on Medium.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!