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#JeSuisNice: An Eyewitness Account of the Terrorist Attacks That Struck Bastille Day

15/07/2016 12:02 | Updated 15 July 2016
Pascal Rossignol / Reuters

It's the height of the tourist season in Nice, plus the jazz festival, which had been due to happen this weekend has made the city busier than ever.

Bastille Day happens every year. There's bunting throughout the city, and the big finale is the fireworks that take place. They're lit from barges across the beautiful bay, and everyone amasses on the beach and along the streets facing the water. People bring picnics, and make a huge evening of it. For tens of thousands of people, it's one of the biggest nights of the year.

The fireworks had just finished. I'd been on the beach with my mother and friends, and we started to head back into the Old Town, crossing the Promenade des Anglais which lines the beach. The terrorists timed their attack to the precise minute, so that the road would be full of people crossing the beach after the fireworks. It was the busiest moment possible.

We had come to one of the narrow streets near the Cours Saleya, which is the main drag that runs parallel to the Prom, maybe 300 yards away, when my friends and I were suddenly swept up by a massive crush - the crowd running frantically from the prom.

I pulled us quickly into a bar; others nearby were closing and pulling their shutters down.

I asked people in the rushing crowd what they were rushing from, but they didn't know. What was scary was that the rush would subside and suddenly pick up pace again.

We left the bar to join others that we'd become separated from - a few hundred yards away, near our apartment. All the bars and restaurants were closing up. What was fascinating, was what a different experience this was from an earlier era in my life, when a friend and I had been trapped in London in the early 1990s due to an IRA terrorist threat. That night in London, restaurants had opened their doors, allowed scared people to take shelter, food, until three in the morning when we were eventually allowed to go home.

Last night, bars and restaurants closed their doors, battened down their hatches, let no one in, even to use the toilet. The owners were obviously terrified the same thing we'd all seen in Paris would happen here, that gunmen would go roaming. Instead, people raced by in panic, frantically dialing their friends.

So we all walked further up into town; into Place Garibaldi, where restaurants and bars were closing and people were walking away from the beach and Old Town. When we returned home, we were kept busy responding to messages of concern from friends, and trying to find everyone we care about in Nice.

This morning, the streets are busy, and there's much to do.

Although there had been various warnings, and various rumours of things possibly happening along the beach, nobody really believed it would happen. And now it has.

It didn't really hit me last night, but I woke up this morning, and saw that somebody had written on social media, using the hashtag, #JeSuisNice. I thought - they've come here now, and they've come for us.

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