Hard to combat terrorism when it’s done by lone wolves. Oh wait, giving wolves a bad name. Lone crazy idiotic evil fools.
I heard the news about Nice when I got back to my apartment last night (very early this morning as the fireworks show was not over until 11:40pm). Overnight (my night – your afternoon and evening) I got many Face Book and texts from friends. Well-meaning and I do appreciate it! But a bit geographically challenged for France – Nice is on the Mediterranean about 600 miles south of me. It’s horrendous. Callous. Evil. Death toll keeps rising as hospital patients don’t pull through. Now it’s at 84.
Last year after the Nov 11 attacks, France declared a state of emergency. It’s been renewed every 3 months since then. And was just going to go away. No surprise and actually a reassurance, it’s been renewed again. That means continued bag and sometimes body checks and the continued presence of police and army on the streets. Someone told me that their Kalashnikovs (or whatever their assault rifles are) are not loaded. That doesn’t make sense to me. And even though the officer may sometimes hold the gun a bit too high so it might point at my thigh not the ground, I would prefer to think they are loaded. No one here complains about the body pat downs. And yes, they have two lines – women officers and men. Although last night getting into the Eiffel Tower area, the line was longer for the women and several of the women all decided that there were enough cute male police that they might change lines. But no. That would have caused a commotion and commotions are to be avoided in the security areas.
Same security at the Military Parade going from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. This year I watched it from home on TV except for a quick trip out to get photos of the aerial parade.
But no watching fireworks on TV!
The fireworks display was as fabulous as last year. And I was in almost the same spot. There was no security at all last year. Just walked around and picked a spot. This year we were 4 days after the final of the Euro 2016 football. And for that entire competition, the Champs de Mars (green space between the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militarie) was enclosed in fencing, with specific entry points and three levels of security screenings. They left all the fences up and had two security screenings. And in addition, the streets around the Champs de Mars were all closed to traffic. (No trucks able to drive through like in Nice.) Last year a friend went about 1 in the afternoon and staked out a spot in the middle of the lawn and had a great view. This year the space was not opened until 4 pm. So we wined and dined in her apartment (2 blocks away) and then went over at 9:45pm – fireworks start at 11pm. We finally found our spot – over by the side again because the entire grassy (but now bark chippy) space was packed! And then stood for an hour til the show began.
Awesome. It’s so much fun to go see fireworks with people who love them as much as I do. One friend had a 6 year old grin the entire show!
But there was a blip. Well, a couple. As we waited, some idiot had fire crackers which he would set off – just one big bang at a time but several of them! And of course, we all flinched. With all the police and army about, no security personnel were close enough to figure out who it was and stop him.
And then about 20 minutes in, the crowd in front of us suddenly turned and started to push back. We were standing bunched together, with space on either side – not because there were established lines to stay within – no, it was dictated by the view. 10 feet to the right or left and the trees blocked the Eiffel Tower. And there wasn’t a lot of space in-between anyone. Suddenly the people in front were turning and trying to move in our direction.
My friends turned and jogged back. I stepped on a back pack and picked it up – thinking it belonged to one of my friends. Then I stepped back a few steps but by that point the push back had stopped. Everyone stood for a moment, trying to figure out what happened and if there was any reason to leave. The guy next to me told his girlfriend, Avance. Go forward. So I joined them and ended up with a little bit better view. My friends had moved much farther back so I figured I was alone for the rest of the night. Five minutes later, two of them joined me. The other two stayed back.
No one knows what sparked the moment of panic. Not sure why I stopped to get the pack – maybe for my friends but also to get it out of the way for people tripping on it. And in an instant your brain has to say stay or run. This time I chose correctly. I don’t need any more practice in such decision-making. Thank you very much, Universe.
I ended up dropping the bag – someone would be looking for it later.
After was the long walk home. I learned last year that taking a metro near the Eiffel was not possible – closed or long lines. So I walked across the river to the Champs Elysees metros. So much trash all over! Wine bottles, water bottles, beer bottles. Amazingly, it was all cleaned up by the morning. Cleaning crews must have started working by 2 am. And I walked. And walked. And walked. Down Ave. Montaigne with the tres chic stores – Chanel, Valentino, etc. And still some idiot was setting off the explosive firecrackers with the BIG BANGs. Everyone still flinched.
Then I got home and found texts from family and friends – was I ok? I hate those texts. That’s how I found out about the November 13 attacks. Switched on the BBC news to hear all about Nice. And I can’t help but think those folks were out to enjoy the fireworks just like I was.
Today as I was coming back home, I saw a French flag hanging out a window. Unheard of 2 years ago. It came out some after Charlie Hebdo, and it was everywhere after November 11. I love the Bleu Blanc et Rouge but I’d rather see it for other reasons.
So why France? Someone sent me an article about France being a breeding ground for terrorists. I actually think that is Belgium. They pick on France. Do they see us as any easy target? Easier than Germany? I don’t know. But I can’t see myself leaving anytime soon.