Photo Courtesy of Yann Cardec
As the show progressed, smoke began to accumulate at the base of the Eiffel Tower. I didn't think twice about it, just assuming it was smoke from the fireworks. Then suddenly, a stampede of people were running for their lives in our direction.
Alarmed, I bolted out as fast as I could, confused and scared.
Running on pure adrenaline, I found myself blocks away from the Eiffel Tower before I stopped to think where my family went. At this point I could only assume it was either a bomb or shooting that sent all these people running, based on the look of pure fear I saw in their eyes. There may have been a language barrier but their faces told it all; I need to get out of there.
Once I reached what I assumed was safety I paused to use my brain as my fight or flight response wore off. My initial reaction was to call my parents; however, I didn't have an international plan, so I decided to walk back to where we had dinner that night and hope my family would rendezvous there too. Still uncertain on what exactly sent people running, I was focusing on meeting up with my family first and then figuring out what happened later.
After waiting for a nerve racking five minutes, I finally saw my parents emerge from the crowd and make eye contact with me. Rejoiced and relieved I was so happy to see them. Then we all asked each other the same question, “Where is Sara!?"
The last time we saw her was when she jolted out of the crowd like a jack rabbit as soon as she spotted the mob. We prayed that she would logically think to meet back at the restaurant, but there was no telling where she would end up.
After waiting for 15 minutes (what seemed like an eternity), we finally got a phone call from my sister. Apparently the crowd she was running with had gone down a side street, and she was lost somewhere in Paris with a possible terrorist on the loose. Fortunately, she was able to use her phone’s GPS to get back to the restaurant, and we were so thankful when our family was all back together.
Rumors of a shooting, bombing, or firework incident were spreading around the streets like wildfire. Once I knew our whole family was safe, I instantly went on my phone (thanks to the free wifi at the café) to check the news. I was scared out of my mind when I saw headlines of a terrorist attack in France popping up everywhere. I thought for sure that we had just experienced this, but when I clicked on the article I was shocked to see it was in Nice, not Paris.
I was searching everywhere for some sort of attack in Paris but everything was focused on Nice. I then took to trustworthy Twitter and discovered that a truck full of fireworks had caught on fire at the base of the Eiffel Tower, causing the crowds to scatter. I was relieved that nobody had been hurt in Paris, but I realized the coincidental timing of the events is what had caused the pure terror of the crowd.
Within an hour of the accidental fire at the base of the Eiffel Tower, a terrorist in a truck ran over and shot down spectators at Nice’s Bastille Day firework show, killing 84 people.
With Nice being located in southern France, this backed up our taxi driver’s seemingly outlandish comments about it “not being safe down there.” News of this tragedy had apparently spread to everyone in the crowd in Paris, except for us. This caused high alert and paranoia among the spectators at the Eiffel Tower; a prime terror target. So when they saw flames and smoke at the base of the iconic landmark, it sent them running for their lives.
Full of great memories, and tragic memories, Bastille day will be a day I remember for the rest of my life.
Cover photo courtesy of Pierre-Yves Beaudouin