Thursday 27 October 2016

'We had planned to be there, watching fireworks'

Published 15/07/2016 | 02:30

People cross the street with their hands on their heads as a French soldier secures the area. Photo: Reuters
People cross the street with their hands on their heads as a French soldier secures the area. Photo: Reuters

It felt like 9/11 all over again. Except rather than watching from thousands of kilometres away, we had missed this terror attack by the slimmest of chances.

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Earlier on the train from the little village of Villefranche on the fringes of Nice, I suggested to my wife and three friends that we should head into the iconic Promenade Anglais.

There we might sample the festive Bastille Day atmosphere, catch the fireworks, and hopefully a drink at a snazzy hotel.

Thank God we happened to be just too tired by the time we were heading home from another day at the beach on the French Riviera.

Since arriving, we had noticed extra police with guns patrolling streets, beaches and towns.

It was somewhat unsettling, but also reassuring that the authorities were doing their best to protect the millions that flock to this legendary European tourist hotspot.

When I heard the news first I was just climbing into bed, and was inclined to think that a truck driver had conked out behind the wheel.

But a quick search on Twitter revealed that this was much more sinister, and when we turned on Sky News the full horror of the latest mass attack on the French public began to unfold.

Even as I'm sitting here, the death toll continues to rise, and a look at footage online has turned my stomach. In the same way that it took my brain the best part of 30 minutes to process just how significant the Twin Tower attacks really were, the shocking reality is just beginning to dawn. Families, children, tourists, all mown down by a crazed terrorist.

What will we do in the days ahead? What precautions do we need to take flying out of Nice? The official line is that people should stay indoors. But knowing the French people, they will want to show the perpetrators that they will not be bowed.

This is a shocking end to our holiday in the sun, but the battle against terrorists for Europeans, and the French in particular, is only set to intensify.

Irish Independent

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