On this seafront where many Nice people still do not have the strength to return, the 4-meter high sculpture, a bird-man posed on a wave, signed by the Nice artist Jean-Marie Fondacaro, was unveiled on July 14th.
At the foot of the wave, a heart-shaped calligram encompasses the names of the 86 missing, these “angels” mirroring the “Bay of Angels” which extends offshore.
Along this avenue running along the Mediterranean for 7 km, another memorial, placed in the gardens of the Villa Masséna, sees hundreds of tourists and locals from Nice parading every day, who come to meditate.
“Unfortunately I live in a country where we know about the attacks, but I did not remember that there had been so many deaths”, testifies Menahem Alexander, Israeli, who lives “near Tel Aviv”.
On vacation in the south with his wife Hanna and his three children, Menahem “did not know” that Monday in Paris would open the trial of this attack, led by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, Tunisian and radicalized Muslim of 31 years finally shot dead by the police.
“To remember is not to forget”, insists the mayor of the city, Christian Estrosi: “This wound will never be mended, whatever the outcome of the trial. This wound is too deep”.
And this wound was again “revived” on October 29, 2020, recalls the elected official, evoking these three faithful Nice assassinated by another Islamist, in the Notre-Dame basilica.
– “No hate” –
As the trial approaches, some people “want to move on and stop thinking about it”, admits Cécile Malo, general delegate of the Fondation de France Méditerranée, which helped the victims. But “being able to tell a collective story of what happened is very important” and the trial “will contribute to the work of mourning”: “Nice is a territory in resilience”.
For Yvan Gastaut, professor of history at the University of Nice, the attack revealed “a certain number of realities” and provoked “an awareness of an aspect of the city that is not sufficiently highlighted, namely the question emigration and diversity”: “There was a paradox in Nice: it is a city very often highlighted through its history, tourism and luxury. However, in Nice as in Marseilles or Toulon, ( there is) an immigrant and working-class presence, an element that was highlighted in 2016”.
Episode of “fracture” for the historian, showing a society “not as homogeneous as one might think”, this drama particularly affected a community, the Muslims, “very present in the city”, with historically a large Tunisian diaspora . Community that was “victim and target” of anger afterwards.
“There were many Muslim victims and at the same time there was a lot of stigmatization of Muslims because of the murderer. This subject is central in the city and the consequences have not yet been resolved”, according to Mr. Gastaut.
Mother of a 10-year-old girl deeply psychologically injured, Hager Ben Aouissi was born in Nice to Tunisian parents “who met in Nice”. She assumes her Tunisian origin but “did not feel attached” to the author of the attack, “not even at 0.1%”.
“For me, he is not a normal human being. What he has done is beyond barbarism”, confides the founder of the association “A way of children July 14, 2016”. But she feels “no hatred”: “Hate will not move us forward”.