This Day In History: July 14

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On July 14, 2016, thousands gathered along the seafront of Nice, France to celebrate Bastille Day—the country's independence holiday. The mood turned from joy to horror, when a white truck barreled through a pedestrian-filled closed street. In the end, 86 were dead, including 10 children, and over 400 spectators were left injured.

While fireworks shot into the sky for 30,000 spectators, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian man who had been planning his attack for a year, drove past the festivities several times in a truck he'd rented just three days prior. Shortly after the show concluded, he put his plan into motion. He jumped the curb with the truck, zigzagging through the crowd at 60 miles per hour, deliberately running people over. Those who were celebrating just moments before began scrambling for safety, running into hotels and onto the beach.

The attacker, who was previously "totally unknown" to security services, tore through over a mile of the pedestrian-filled promenade before being stopped by police. He was armed with an automatic pistol, but also carried several replica assault weapons, and even a disarmed grenade, to escalate his threatening appearance. Using the pistol, he fired shots at police, who shot and killed him.

In the days after the attack, shrines to the victims were built around the metal barriers closing off the promenade. Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared three days of mourning, and all festivities were canceled, including a five-day jazz festival and a Rihanna concert.  Valls also called for volunteers to help boost security. 12,000 people stepped up.

Two days later, the Islamic State took responsibility for the attack. On July 22, five of Lahouaiej-Bouhlel's accomplices were charged in the attack.

Despite the relatively speedy resolution, citizens and officials alike were left wondering, how, after everything the country had been through less than a year earlier in Paris, an attack like this could have happened again.

“Questions are raised,” Christian Estrosi, the president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, which includes Nice, said in his address after the attack. “As I try to comfort the families, I also try to contain my anger; I can’t hide to you that I feel a deep anger. How is it possible in our country that, after everyone said there was a state of emergency, a state of war, we forgot it after Charlie Hebdo, and then there was the Bataclan. After the Bataclan, we forgot, and then there was Brussels. After Brussels, we forgot and there was Nice. There are questions that need to be answered.”

Some speculated that, after the Euro 2016 soccer tournament went on with no incidents, security felt the country was in the clear. Meanwhile, the BBC reported that the 6 agencies’ lack of communication might have been the cause of confusion and gaps in security. An investigation into potential lapses was opened in April 2017 after several families filed a lawsuit, but no parliamentary investigative committee was formed.

The 2017 Bastille Day fireworks were canceled out of respect for those killed. 

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