World·CBC in Nice

Silence, grief loom over scene of deadly attack in Nice

There was a looming, overwhelming silence on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, Friday, as people came to lay flowers and mourn the dozens killed in yesterday's truck attack. The CBC's Peter Armstrong reports from Nice.

People come to lay flowers and mourn the dozens of lives lost on Promenade des Anglais

A day after the deadly truck attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice that killed more than 80 people, the atmosphere was sombre and debris from last night's tragedy was still scattered on the street. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

There was a looming, overwhelming silence on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, on Friday, a day after a man intentionally drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the seaside promenade, killing dozens.

The street is still completely blocked off, and police are stationed at every corner. Police and military boats are in the water off the famous rock beaches.

At every corner, small clutches of people stand looking toward the scene. As they approach, they walk softly and speak in hushed tones. Many tuck small bouquets of flowers into the barricades or light a candle and pause for a moment.

People came to the seaside avenue to lay flowers and mourn those mowed down by a truck driven at high speed into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

Many were here last night as the chaos unfolded. Most haven't really slept. So, there's this exhaustion, this weariness in them as they approach the barricades. They quietly cry and look out at the cordoned-off crime scene.

One man approaches with his two young sons, and together they light a candle. He is asked if he was here last night and says, "Well, I'm ​Niçois, we were all here."

On the other side of the barricades, the debris from last night's chaos lies where it fell. Bicycles knocked over as people ran from the attacker haven't moved. The scene is frozen in time, frozen in those first terrible moments when people here realized this was not an accident but rather an attack and that people were dying all around them.

Strollers, bikes and other belongings abandoned by people fleeing the speeding truck could still be seen strewn all over the promenade and nearby beach on Friday. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

Giant, white curtains have been set up intermittently on the street. From a distance, they look like tents. Police hung them this morning to hide the bodies as the sun rose over the horrors of last night.

All along the closed-off boulevard, people meet and look and cry. The normally bustling restaurants are closed, and workers sit on the steps with their shirts off in the hot midday sun. Police vans come and go.

French police continued to collect evidence and investigate the 2 km stretch of the promenade where the attack occurred. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

We spoke with one woman whose apartment looks out over the scene. She had clearly spent much of the day crying. Her cheeks were still wet and her eyes still red when she told us that she was on the promenade last night.

She saw a three-year-old child lying on the road, injured from the attack. She and some others performed CPR. The tears returned again as she told us it didn't work. The child died.

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At every corner, these stories are being told and shared as strangers cry together, as Nice begins to come to terms with what happened here last night.

As if to underline just how frayed nerves are here, an unclaimed piece of luggage at the Nice airport led to a lockdown of about a half an hour Friday afternoon.

Armed soldiers patrol along the beach in Nice. France's security apparatus remained hypervigilant as they continued to investigate the tragedy. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

Security officials rushed into the area, people were quickly ordered out, and the baggage claim area was cordoned off. The issue was eventually resolved and everyone continued about their day, but there was an unspoken sense that these are nervous times, and it's far better to be safe than sorry.



Senior Business reporter for CBC News. A former host of On the Money and World Report on CBC Radio, Peter Armstrong has been a foreign correspondent and parliamentary reporter for CBC. Subscribe to Peter's newsletter here: Twitter: @armstrongcbc


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