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Nice residents lay flowers for the victims of the July 14th attack
Nice residents lay flowers for the victims of the July 14th attack
Christian Lecomte

NICE — After Thursday night's horror come the questions. Along Nice's Promenade des Anglais, people gather to tell their stories and understand how such a tragedy could have happened.

Franck Sana is a postman in Nice, and he was working on July 14th. His wife and children went to the beach in front of the West End hotel in a small corner of sand where he likes to go because there's "a shower and clean toilets." At 8 p.m. he joined them on his scooter for a picnic, and they reached the beachfront an hour later to enjoy the fireworks.

"The fireworks were shortened, certainly because of the wind," he said. "We were starting to leave just like everybody when we heard screams and gunshots and of course we thought they were firecrackers, but then I quickly understood that something else was going on."

Meyerbeer Street opens onto the Promenade des Anglais. Since last night public access has been prohibited, like in the other streets near the promenade, but Franck was able to recover his scooter after he showed his identity papers.

"It's awful, there's still blood and children's shoes on the ground," he says, starting to cry. "I even saw part of an arm in a bucket." He saved his family by running, avoiding two bicycles coming toward them.

Olivier, a summer seasonal worker, is sweeping the sidewalk in front of Koudou, a stylish bar on the seaside avenue. On Thursday night, the bar where he works was crowded, and he remembers seeing "a white shadow that was moving very fast, loud screams."

He says panicked crowds rushed into the bar. "They went upstairs, hid in the toilets, in the kitchen, they were terrified," he recalled "A little girl kept asking where her mom was."

The crowd, which included some shivering because they had jumped into the sea to avoid the truck, stayed here until 1 a.m.. "They didn't want to go out because they were still afraid, until the police evacuated them."

On the Promenade, in the stretch from the Casino to the Negresco hotel, there are shoes everywhere, as well as broken bicycles, musical instruments and white sheets used to cover victims' bodies that had turned a bloodsoaked red.

A man wearing a white suit and black sunglasses comes out of the Westminster hotel. A former police officer from Monaco, he rents a room in Nice during the summer. "France has no borders any more, anyone can enter the country," he says. "Regional president and former Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi didn't want a new mosque built in Nice but the courts rejected his proposal. The truth is they hide their weapons in there."

Rachid, who manages the Djourdjoura restaurant in Nice's old town, is crushed. "If you knew how many Muslims came yesterday evening to enjoy the fireworks, you would know that these insane people attack everybody, even targeting the Muslims first," he says. "They target the Muslims who love and live in this country, who are French and who cried last Sunday night after France lost against Portugal in the (Euro soccer) final."

At Nice's train station, the platforms are crowded with tourists who just want to leave the city as soon as possible. "But how was that truck able to get there in the first place?" aks one woman. Many people in Nice, and around the world, are asking themselves the same thing.

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