Makeshift memorials along the Promenade des Anglais make real and enduring the terrorist attack of Bastille Day. A very public way of mourning. A mourning among strangers and mostly by strangers to the dead. The first batches of flowers, candles and children’s toys as I walked towards the centre of the city were not to mark where people have died, but were across the road from Lenval Children’s Hospital, where some of the injured, later dead, were received. About a block away were flowers and tributes to the attack’s first victim, Fatma, a Muslim woman.
Another block along the Promenade, tourists were looking solemnly upon the monument to the memory of the Pieds-Noirs (1830-1962), which now appears as a fresh gravestone, loaded with flowers, candles, flags, messages, marking the place where other lives ended in horror. The tricolour candle has been burned down into a lava-like heap. I continued walking and found the word paix (peace) beautifully drawn on to the pavement, but some twenty yards ahead I saw a pack of five national police pacing among the joggers, tourists, beach combers, cyclists and walkers. As most of the victims were killed on the small stretch of road that had been pedestrianised that night for the festivities, those memorials have been moved to the pavement of the Promenade, a deeply moving messy multilingual display of remembrance.
To equal the sadness was the joy in finding people alive and well. The couple that runs our local newsagent, our favourite waitress at Wayne’s Bar, the bartenders at the Radisson Blu, the cashiers at the supermarkets – these people whom we know, but don’t know personally, threads in the fabric of our lives – are all survivors.
We walk along the Promenade every day that we are in Nice, simply to get from our apartment to other parts of the city. This past week, we walked the full length of the Prom – seven kilometres – twice. The second time, we continued on to the top of the chateau and looked down upon our resilient city, where life continues.