Balancing Safety And Celebration On The Streets Of France NPR's Scott Simon celebrated Bastille Day in France with his family. Even before he learned of the attack in Nice, he struggled to balance the joy of the festivities with the undercurrent of fear.
NPR logo

Balancing Safety And Celebration On The Streets Of France

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/486277506/486279715" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Balancing Safety And Celebration On The Streets Of France

Balancing Safety And Celebration On The Streets Of France

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/486277506/486279715" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Scott Simon has been in France with his family during this week of the attack in Nice, and he sends us these thoughts.

SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: As what President Francois Hollande has described as this unspeakable act was probably underway in Nice, my family and I are enjoying the same kind of Bastille Day festivities in Deauville, Normandy.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIREWORKS EXPLODING)

SIMON: Fireworks along the beach were spectacular, streaking the sky with stripes of red and blue and starbursts of bright white light. Bastille Day is France's national holiday. It's just not the birth of the French Republic, but the start of summer, with long family meals and late night strolls which the French believe in as a constitutional right. Every big town and small village in France has these ceremonies. Many of the people in our town had gathered in the town square. A British regimental band, Brexit be damned, played oom-pah-pah (ph) music while people lit candles and paper lanterns as the sky darkened and the gaggle of happy families and fired-up teenagers set out to march through the town to the beach.

But in these times, after so many acts of terror, no public gathering in France, from the Euro Cup tournament to a beach town parade, can be carefree. We've seen terror and bloodshed strike in a moment. You don't want to be silly, but you also don't want to be stupid, especially when you hold on to the hand of a child. But you also don't want anxieties to make you scared to do what you cherish, so we walked through town. We looked up at people who looked on from their balconies, including a man in a bathrobe, and sometimes waved and also saw French security forces on roofs. They don't wave.

When we got to the beach the fireworks began. At one point a couple of sullen, unsmiling kids began to push their way through the crowd just in front of us. My wife and I confessed later that we'd each thought of the brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon. The fireworks show was glorious, but we were glad to hear the last pop from the sky and see the last glowing ash drift down.

As the crowd began to walk back over the promenade that runs along the beach here in Deauville, you could hear beeps and trills from cell phones, alerts from the BBC or Le Monde about the truck attack along the promenade in Nice. It is probably impossible for anyone in France not to feel that it could have been their town, their family, their friends, which I suppose is the whole point of terror. A parent has to weigh the risk that something terrible could happen against the risk of raising children in fear.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.