As News Arrives of Terror in Nice, Bastille Day Celebrations Carry On in Oak Cliff

While one man put up French flags to honor Nice's victims, many of the people attending Go Oak Cliff's annual Bastille Day celebration seemed unaware of what was happening across the Atlantic.EXPAND
While one man put up French flags to honor Nice's victims, many of the people attending Go Oak Cliff's annual Bastille Day celebration seemed unaware of what was happening across the Atlantic.
Matt Brown

People in Dallas still recovering from a terror attack watch as a man places French flags into the frame of a water fountain resembling the Eiffel Tower. Many of the people congregating in the Bishop Arts District for the Bastille celebration in Oak Cliff seem to be unaware of the events transpiring half a world away.

A few of the Bastille attendees in Dallas, though, are milling around with looks ranging from defeat to defiance. They understand the significance of the flags being mounted. A performer on stilts weaves her way through foot traffic and a woman in a flowing pink skirt swings from a tree nearby.

It’s a very different scene from the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, where an hour prior scores of men, women and children were run down, their bodies littering the street after a terror attack. A man drove his truck for more than a mile through the promenade where hundreds of people had gathered to watch fireworks. He swerved toward his victims, accelerating while he mowed down more than 80 victims before being killed by police.

Odile Fuller is a French transplant attending the Bastille on Bishop with her daughter and grandchild. “You start to worry [about] where you go,” she says. “It’s not just France, it’s all over.”

A week earlier, a gunman opened fire on Dallas police officers escorting a peaceful protest through downtown Dallas, slaying five officers. As Dallas comes to the end of a week of mourning and funerals, residents now look to France and its staggering body count, understanding the pain that the people of France are now experiencing.

Shortly after the attack in France on Thursday, the Dallas Police Department responded by immediately increasing police presence in the Bishop Arts District, Amy Wallace Cowan of Go Oak Cliff, the neighborhood group that organizes Bastille on Bishop, told the Observer.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Nice, and frankly, to people everywhere in the world,” she says. “We all seem to be taking blow after blow of unreasonable and unimaginable violence.”

The holiday season has just begun in France and tens of thousands of tourists are descending upon the French Riviera. Amanda Freitag, an Oak Cliff resident, was walking the same promenade in France only two weeks ago, barely beating the holiday rush.

“They just started their family time,” said Freitag. “Now a lot of them don’t have a lot of their family.”

This is the second terror attack in France since November of last year, when seven terrorists claiming allegiance to ISIS gunned down 130 people in Paris, and some people have embraced what they see as the new norm.

Officer Patrick Fulla, having seen terrorism move from the TV to the city he patrols, thinks that it’s time to stop being shocked. “This is an everyday experience,” he says. “People need to get used to it.”

Perhaps some people have. Others, like Odile Fuller and Costa Maz, see a brighter future for the world but recognize that it will take work and time. Fuller puts her faith in the younger generations whom she sees as having the power to create change. Maz sees a future without poverty which will lead to a world without oppression and disenchantment, what he says he believes is the root cause of terrorism.

Maz, a French native, also has a message for the families suffering in France, a message that residents of Dallas understand well after living through one of the darkest days in the city’s history.

“Keep up the faith, keep strong.” he says. “Eventually things will get better with patience and perseverance."

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