In Nice, Residents And Tourists Struggle To Adjust After Attack

Jul 22, 2016
Originally published on July 24, 2016 12:47 pm

Who hasn't dreamed of visiting France? The two most popular tourist destinations in the country are Paris and Nice, on the French Riviera. But now they've both been hit by deadly attacks — three large-scale attacks in a year and a half.

Last week's truck rampage in Nice killed 84 people on a seaside promenade watching fireworks. It has taken a serious toll on the French spirit and has made some tourists reconsider a visit.

In the days after the attack, flowers and teddy bears marked the places along the Promenade des Anglais where people were killed in the attack. But the spot where the attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was shot and killed was marked by a pile of rocks. The word "Assassin" was sprayed in red on the pavement. Curses were scribbled on some of the rocks. A circle of people hovered over the site. Some people leaned over and spat.

Danielle Cocchi was one of them. "It helps me deal with the hatred and anger within me," she says. "We're lost. We just don't know how to deal with it. We're living in endless doubt."

Doubt has driven some people in Nice to church services — and to seek the counsel of Sylvain Brison, chaplain of the main cathedral in Nice.

"They ask, how can we forgive that?" he says. "Why is this kind of evil happening? They have difficulties to forgive the terrorist."

Another priest delivered a homily at the cathedral last Sunday that tried to offer some answers. "Love is stronger than hate," he said. "We shouldn't close our hearts."

Among those in the pews was Majella Blackburn from Ireland. She said she had second thoughts about vacationing in Nice.

"I was frightened," she said. "And I felt coming to celebrate on holiday and people are in mourning didn't seem right. But I'm glad I came."

This is the jarring juxtaposition of Nice: the blue sea, the sunlight and the mix of French and Italian cuisines continue to attract visitors even after the attack. They idle by the harbor and walk along the promenade, ice cream cones in hand.

But some tourists have their doubts.

Denis Zanon, manager of Nice's tourism board, understands people's hesitation but says Nice is just like anywhere else in the world.

"I won't say myself I don't recommend to go to the U.S. because of the tragedy of Orlando or because of what's happening in Baton Rouge or wherever," he says. "If you are rational and you say that I don't want to go anywhere where there have been such events, you don't go anywhere."

This is the sobering — almost defeatist — message French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has imparted to his own public. "The times have changed," he said the morning after the attack. "France is going to have to live with terrorism."

But that's going to be hard. After the attack in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, the trending hashtag on Twitter was #jesuischarlie, "I am Charlie." After November's attacks in Paris, it was #jesuisparis. Now, it's #jesuisépuisé — "I am exhausted."

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ELISE HU, HOST:

Four men and one woman have appeared in court in France accused of helping the driver of a truck that killed 84 people in Nice. The five are charged with providing logistical support for the attack, which the Paris prosecutor says had been in the planning for several months. France is still reeling from the Bastille Day murders. It was the third major terrorist attack in that country in less than 18 months. It's taken a serious toll on the French spirit and has made some tourists reconsider a visit. Here's NPR's Daniel Estrin.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Flowers and teddy bears mark the places along the promenade where people were killed. But the spot where the attacker was shot and killed is marked by a pile of rocks. The word assassin is sprayed in red on the pavement. Curses are scribbled on some of the rocks. A circle of people hovers over the site. Some people lean over and spit. Danielle Cocchi was one of them.

DANIELLE COCCHI: (Speaking French).

ESTRIN: "It helps me deal with the hatred and anger within me," she says. "We're lost. We just don't know how to deal with it. We're living in endless doubt."

COCCHI: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) Hallelujah.

ESTRIN: Doubt has driven some people in Nice to church services and to seek the counsel of Sylvain Braison, chaplain of the main cathedral in Nice.

SYLVAIN BRAISON: They ask, how can we forgive that? Why is this kind of evil happening? They have difficulties to forgive the terrorist.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking French).

ESTRIN: Another priest delivered a homily at the cathedral this Sunday that tried to offer some answers. Love is stronger than hate, he said. We shouldn't close our hearts. Among those in the pews was Majella Blackburn from Ireland. She said she had second thoughts about vacationing in Nice.

MAJELLA BLACKBURN: I was frightened. And I felt coming - celebrating holiday and people are in mourning didn't seem right. But I'm glad I came.

ESTRIN: This is the jarring juxtaposition of Nice. The blue sea, the sunlight and the mix of French and Italian cuisine continue to attract visitors even after the attack. They idle by the harbor and walk along the promenade, ice cream cones in hand. But some tourists have their doubts. Denis Zanon, manager of Nice's tourism board, understands people's hesitation, but says Nice is just like anywhere else in the world.

DENIS ZANON: I won't say myself I don't recommend to go to the U.S. because of the tragedy of Orlando or what's happening, actually, in Baton Rouge or wherever. If you are rational and you say, I don't want to go anywhere where there have been such events, you don't go anywhere.

ESTRIN: This is the sobering, almost defeatist message French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has imparted to his own public. The times have changed, he said the morning after the attack. France is going to have to live with terrorism. But that's going to be hard. After the Charlie Hebdo attack last January, the trending hashtag on Twitter was #jesuischarlie. After November's attacks in Paris, #jesuisparis. Now it's #jesuisepuise - I am exhausted. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Nice. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.