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General Articles

Exclusive! That Day! Four Months After...

The tragedy of 14th July in Nice affected so many people. Back in August we featured an account of one lady who was at the scene watching the whole event unfold 'The night Nice changed forever - 14th July'. At the time The Riviera Woman withheld the identity of the author to give her time to reflect and repair. By request we return to the author 4 months later who now shares her feelings and experiences of life post 14th July.

By Jill Pirdas

My daughter suggested that I ride my bike whilst she jog at my side down the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. I hesitated. Since the horror of that night on the 14th of July I had not been able to walk down the Promenade. However, I told myself that I would have to face it one day so I took up her invitation.

We live on the west side of Nice, so it was a while before we drew near to Magnan where the lorry had emerged from its hiding place. It was here that it had mounted the pavement on the sea front to go hurtling towards the city centre.

And there it was - the first little shrine. A few white pebbles, some cuddly toys, candles and flowers. I rode on, I would stop another day. Today I had decided to pause at the place where I had been that night.

We sat for a long moment in silence holding hands. Every day since the tragedy I have relived the scene. I know exactly where the bodies had lain, I know exactly what clothes they were wearing. A little further on to the right there is a memorial marked '1830 1962 Hommage aux Français d'Afrique du Nord de Toutes Confessions.' (Homage to the North African French of all Faiths). Of all faiths. There had been so many different nationalities and faiths (or of no faith) that evening on that pavement: Russians, Poles, Americans, Brazilians, Armenians, Italians, Tunisians and Algerians amongst the French and other nationalities. Under this monument of dark blue marble were piled bunches of flowers, messages, toys, a pebble marked 'plus jamais ça', (never again), and a votive candle, its small flame flickering in the sunlight.

This monument had originally been created to commemorate the painful exodus of the French from North Africa to our shores in 1962. Today, however, this steel, sliced from top to base by a jagged gash, seems to have taken on a new meaning, that of broken hearts, the rift between humanity and inhumanity, a wound in the fabric of Love.

We move on towards the Albert Premier gardens where the band-stand has become one vast memorial. Festooned with banners, messages, flowers and toys it looks very bright and cheerful from afar. Inside there is a mountain of children's fluffy toy animals, and of course there are the photos...

I'm asked if life has changed for me since then. People saw much worse than I did and have suffered injury and the death of loved ones - my heart goes out to them. For myself I feel that I have become more sensitive to the suffering of others, and of course more wary of traffic and loud noises. But paradoxically I have become a happier person too, appreciating the miracle of life and of being alive whilst at the same time accepting that, in Louis MacNeice's words, "World is suddener than we fancy it....World is crazier and more of it than we think."

***

Jill Pirdas was also featured as 'The Riviera Woman of the Month' last month. See HERE

Thursday, 1 December 2016    Section: General Articles    Author: Jill Pirdas
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