I have stepped cautiously back into life here in Nice after the sobering, unspeakable events of Bastille celebration night when one troubled soul decided to take as many with him as possible on his gruesome killing/suicide spree on the Promenade of Nice.
What is clear is that the driver of the white truck on Bastille Day was not a practicing Muslim but it is still unclear when and how he was recruited to a murderous ideology. It seems to be easy to recruit the deranged and alienated.
I said "unspeakable" but in fact all of us have a need to speak, to tell our story and listen to the others less fortunate who lost one or as many as their whole family to the tragedy. Speaking ( or writing) seems a cleansing ritual that we all crave...to reach out, to listen, to ask "where were you ? Are you all alright?"
Some have gone to the memorial, placed flowers and messages at the "wall" and have donated blood. We all are needing to make some sense of what seems to be happening with greater frequency in our society. We have an urge to comfort each other and connect.
I have started my experiment of "reaching out" and connecting and it is both gratifying and exhausting. It takes a lot of concentration to focus on each person and send the best energy we have available. It becomes clear that just being out in the public one wants to spend a certain amount of time anonymous , get through our errands and hurry home to our sanctuaries.
But yes, I will continue my experiment because connecting really brings rewards as well. I have approached two muslims ( one a neighbor) who have an even greater need to explain that this does not represent Islam and they lost people in the tragedy also. I have talked to others, mostly Christians here and I have silently sent my prayer to each one I passed.
Yes, the Niçois are saddened, empathetic and are going forward. The beaches are still crowded, the tourists seem still to be here.
But it has affected me more than I realized at first. Every truck I see is white and is moving too fast. At every intersection I find myself hesitating before crossing. I want to stay home more than usual and sleep. The worst thing when I am out are the make-shift posters put up in each bus stop asking " have you seen this person?" and showing a grinning youth of about 20. The poster states: "last seen at Blue Beach on July 14." This is heart-breaking.
The phrase which keeps circulating in my head (that I am sure must be from Tennessee Williams) is " live, live, live.... just live....that's all we can do". (I can't seem to find the exact quote online.)
I think by "live" Williams meant "thrive" which only happens if we keep fear at bay and keep ourselves to our highest good. And it certainly helps to do it together.