White roses and 86 doves soaring into the sky in memory of the lives cut short: Nice commemorated ‘without hatred’, Wednesday July 14, the five years of an attack which targeted ‘the whole of France’, according to the Prime Minister Jean Castex.
Some 400 people – mainly victims and families of victims – were gathered in the gardens of the Villa Masséna, a few steps from the Promenade des Anglais.
LIVE | Ceremony of tribute to the victims of the attack of July 14, 2016, in Nice. https://t.co/HCwa6rZ53d
– Government (@gouvernementFR) July 14, 2021
It was on this famous seafront that, on July 14, 2016, a jihadist attack had transformed ‘a hot, happy and festive evening’ into ‘chaos’, into ‘hell’, recalled Stéphane Erbs, co-president of the ‘Promenade des Anges association.
That evening, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian in his thirties living in Nice, had driven at the wheel of a 19-ton truck in the midst of the 30,000 people gathered for the fireworks, mowing down dozens of them within two minutes, before the police shot him down.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State organization, which then controlled areas in Iraq and Syria and carried out deadly attacks in several countries around the world. However, the investigation did not confirm any connection between the ultra-radical organization and its author.
‘On July 14, 2016 in Nice, the Republic was targeted’
‘On July 14, 2016 in Nice, it was the Republic that was targeted’, insisted Prime Minister Jean Castex, present at this tribute with several ministers, reaffirming the government’s will never to ‘give in to barbarism (. ..) on all terrains’.
‘Five years is barely the time to realize that a new life has begun, a life where every day is a test (…), a life more difficult, more bitter, more bitter, subject to so much angers and questions, ‘recalled Stéphane Erbs, who lost his wife in the attack.
‘If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that we’ll never be the same again. If there is one thing also that I can affirm, it is that we will absolutely remain standing ‘and not take the’ destructive path ‘of hatred, for his part stressed Hager ben Aouissi, co-president of the association Life for Nice, a miracle victim of the attack who threw herself to the ground with her five-year-old daughter between the wheels of the truck, to avoid being run over.
On this solemn Wednesday, the photos of the 86 people killed, of all ages and nationalities, were placed in front of the plexiglass heart serving as a memorial in the gardens of the Villa Masséna. Their names were read during the ceremony accompanied by a piece of music played on the harp.
For many relatives of victims, it is still impossible to grieve. Several parents were only able to recover the organs taken from their children for autopsy and sealed by justice last year. Some dispute its authenticity and have seized the Defender of Rights after the refusal of a DNA analysis.
In addition to the 86 victims killed and 206 injured, a total of 1,683 people are considered to be psychologically injured in the attack.
‘Five years later it’s still here’
The children have experienced what no one is prepared for. Five years later, it is still there, in memory, in nightmares, in a police siren ‘, recalled Hager Ben Aouissi, while 300 children are still followed at the Lenval hospital in Nice for the psychotrauma suffered.
Many victims are waiting for the trial, ‘difficult but necessary step’, recalled Stéphane Erbs, hoping that justice ‘punishes with firmness’.
The trial of the eight people suspected of helping Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel will be held in Paris from September 5 to November 15, 2022.
If the civil parties (more than 850) and their lawyers welcomed this referral to the assizes, they deplore however that two of the defendants, prosecuted for common law offenses, were released in November following a procedural defect. .
Several victims also regretted the slowness of the investigation conducted in Nice for ‘involuntary homicides and injuries’ on the security device deployed that evening, co-piloted by the prefecture and the town hall. Stéphane Erbs asked that ‘light be shed on the various failures that have led to such a heavy toll’.
Anne Murris, who lost her 27-year-old daughter and chairs the Memorial des Anges association, again pleaded for the creation of a national memorial-museum in Nice. And to call for hope to be reborn: ‘Even if the pain persists and the scars are far from being closed (…), Nice shines and will always shine’.