Pain and grief was pervasive across the sylvan Promenade des Anglais as French authorities completed a cleaning operation after the Bastille Day truck attack that left 84 people dead, with many more battling for life in local hospitals.
Tourists and local residents flocked to two venues near the scene of Thursday’s massacre, which became the focus of collective pain and grief. A French flag was placed amidst a sea of bouquets, candles and moving messages placed by the young and the old.
Felix, a student from Boston, said he had decided not to cut short his holiday: “They can’t stop us from having the kind of normal life we are used to. We will complete our stay in this beautiful weather to respond to the terrorists.”
Some like Jean from the village of Gattieres stood alone, watching people pay their respects in silence. Six children from her village, 25 km from Nice, died when a Tunisian-orgin man drove a 19-tonne truck nearly two kilometres through revellers. The location of the tragedy was cordoned off but was due to be reopened on Saturday.
Tourists in the rest of the promenade resumed sunbathing and water sports, while there were fewer people at the Nice Cote d’Azur international airport’s departure terminal, unlike on Friday morning, when holiday-makers left in droves.
Amid mournful silence on the promenade, local authorities warned against rumours that spread on social media about hostages and another attack in Cannes. One post, strongly denied by officials, showed an image of smoke around the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
An official website said: “Be responsible! Share only official and reliable information: Avoid spreading rumours! The spreading of false information can threaten the smooth deployment of rescue teams and put you and your relatives at additional risk.”
Read: Islamic State claims responsibility for Nice attack: Amaq news agency
Many children were hospitalised in the children’s hospital on the promenade, where distraught parents would not speak to the media as they waited patiently for news from doctors. Those admitted included babies and teenagers.
Surgeon Frederic Sola told reporters: “The worst thing was the sheer number of children coming in, the nature of their injuries – serious head trauma and broken limbs – and the emotion felt by the children and their families.
“The children were physically very injured but also emotionally very hurt.”
The psychological unit of the Fondation Lenval was providing support to parents. “The psychologists have heard terrible things, there are awful stories that children are telling,” said Stéphanie Simpson, head of the hospital’s development and communications team.