24 hours of darkness on the Côte d’Azur

 

France flag with black ribbon vector

It has not been fully 24 hours since one of the worse attacks on our freedom was unleashed on children, citizens and tourists alike. We have received 100’s of messages from our partners, clients and friends. We geeks have a few things in common; we shy away from politics, any form of hate and aggressive controversy in general. OK, except when talking about which operating system is better. Then you might see us get a bit testy. But, as a general policy we tend to never respond to political matters or the like and that position will remain in that stance as it has no place in our business as an Internet technology company. A company that crosses every border and strives to break down barriers with open standards communications driven by a belief that sharing thru common communication tools opens not only the mind but the understanding between disparate cultures.

We felt that it would be good to share with the over 20,000 businesses that we call “partners” (not customers); how this attack last night affected all of us geeks. Those of us that live here in Nice and beyond. Last night like many thousands of people, we were on the Promenade des Anglais watching the fireworks at the beach. When the show was over the winds picked up and there was a spattering of rain, which drove us to move away from the park verdun and head back towards “le Port” when we heard a rush of sound over the music and began to see the crowds move like a swarm. All we heard and felt was like a “giant buzzing wave” of movement, when the police began shouting “cachez vous, cachez vous” (hide yourself). “Surreal like”; we were crammed into buildings and forced up stair wells by dozens of police; guns drawn. Apartment doors were pelted with dozens of people asking to be let in, and panic was widespread. Children were everywhere, crying, bewildered, and in physically apparent shock; this was a once in the year “family event” with kids being the norm, not the exception.

We do not want to move more into the details of that experience, and will leave it here to say, nothing like that can be planned or experienced or wished upon. It was horrific. By some sort of miracle the residents of the lavish bourgeois building we were in, opened the doors, and the apartments quickly filled. Nobody had an idea what was happening. Nothing was on the TV for 20 minutes, and all the info was coming to us over WhatsAPP, iMessage, Facebook or Twitter. Everyone was gripping their mobile for news, and contacting their friends and family. Including the police.

We want to relay some of the unexpected outcomes of this horror in some sort of hope that it can be “paid forward” and benefits can arise from the ashes of hate. Something that I have to admit that I never considered deeply is the police or pompiers (fire and ambulance people) and the way they put their lives in front of ours. In the building stairwells and flats a constant chatter was spoken to those kids among us; an assurance, an attempt at comfort, that the police were are at the doors protecting us. Many looked over the terrace to verify that they were indeed below, and did it often to be sure the police did not leave us.

What struck “and stuck to me” was that I could hear and see the police confirming to their family that they were ok and they also like us were being overwhelmed with text msg’s asking them about their well being. This made me think how tragic it must be each day for a family to see a police officer, a father, a mother, a husband or wife, leave the house, knowing they might not come home; that perhaps some idiot drunk might injure them along the daily beat. We must think, even when it sucks to get a parking ticket, or to be asked for your ID on the beach, these guys are extraordinarily courageous to do what they do. But even more compelling to me is what their families have to deal with; “the unknown” each day, and that my friends is something we must pay our respect to.

Most of the night and what is left of today was spent looking for and confirming people are alive, those that we “know”.  I went to the University this morning at 8h and those of us that did arrive spent all morning looking thru our phones and Facebook contacts to find our colleagues one by one. We have 400+ students in the summer program. I have non-stop texts asking pretty much the same thing, “are you and your friends OK”? I have thankfully said yes a hundred times, to people from all over the globe and thank you for thinking of us. However, what stopped me to write to you all just now in this blog post was that I realized something, that I somehow actually did “know those people” we lost last night too. Those that came to the Prom Party, Niçois or tourist. I know them….

After living here for nearly 5 years, I know what it is like to go to the Castel plage, or the Cours Saleya in the morning flower market. I know where the good socca is sold, and I know how we are supposed to eat oysters around christmas time, and I know what is means to double park in the Port or how shopping is a “experience vraiment Niçoise” on any given Saturday. I also know what it is like as a tourist, to arrive and see the color of the sea when you are landing in the plane, or walking along the promenade and not just see but smell the Mediterranean sea, each and every time, just breathtaking. I can remember clearly how it felt the first time when I ate warm pain chocolat in the morning in the old town as a tourist and thinking about what it must be like living in such a beautiful and magical place like Nice. So yes, I knew those Niçois that are not here this day, and I know those tourists that were taken last night, because somehow I know they, just like me love the same things here in Nice and we cannot forget that was taken from them “randomly” thru hate.

I have never met all of the people in my building in all the years that I have lived here in Nice. Last night when I came home at 4h I met everyone; French, Russian, Israeli, Italian… and this morning when I woke to go down to the school 4 hours later, the neighbors were still awake and I realized finally I know the Niçoise. We will never forget, and we stand together today like never before.