Remembering Bastille Day 2016

Published July 13, 2017

During last year’s presidential race, Republican candidate Donald Trump called a news conference for Thursday, July 14, to announce his running mate. It was four days before the GOP convention. But Trump never had his news conference. It was abruptly canceled after a 19-ton truck plowed through a crowd of people watching Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, France, killing more than 80 people and injuring more than 200. It was the opening act in a weekend of violence that also included a military coup in Turkey and the ambush killing of three police officers in Louisiana. Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate but most people were too numb to care. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 54 of The Great Divide: Story of the 2016 US Presidential Race on the Bastille Day tragedy:

Bastille Day in France is like the 4th of July in the United States. It falls 10 days later, on July 14. It commemorates the Storming of the Bastille in 1789, a key event in the French Revolution. Parades, festivals and fireworks are standard fare.

On July 14, 2016, in the city of Nice in southern France, an estimated 30,000 tourists and locals were headed back to their cars, homes and hotels after watching fireworks. Suddenly a large white truck began driving through the crowded promenade, sending bodies flying and running over others.

The 31-year-old Tunisia-born truck driver, a resident of Nice, seemed to aim particularly at families. At least 10 of the more than 80 dead were children. He had rented the heavy refrigerated truck three days earlier.

Police shot at the driver. He returned fire. Police finally encircled the truck and shot the driver dead. The back of the truck contained more guns and explosives. It was unclear what the driver’s ultimate aim was.

The driver was known to police as a petty criminal but had no known terrorist ties. Like the shooter in Orlando, he was described by family and acquaintances as hostile and sometimes violent – his most recent arrest had been for road rage – but nothing to warrant putting him on any terrorist watch list.

He’d just recently become inspired by radical Islam. Neighbors and family said the man previously had not acted the least bit Islamic, drinking alcohol, eating pork and not attending a mosque. While it didn’t appear he had any direct contact with Islamic State, the group nonetheless claimed responsibility for the attack.