We spoke with two friends of ours, who were in Nice last night and witnessed the attack. Here is their story, which does not focus on the truck attack, but rather on some mysterious shootings that were heard in the old town, where panic spread in a few seconds, with several hundred people rushing all over the street in terror.
"One night that started out as the celebration of liberty, equality, fraternity ended in tragedy and terror. My sister, some friends and I went to dinner to Nice Old town, Vieux Nice, to celebrate the 14th of July while waiting for the fireworks that are always anticipated with joy by both tourists and locals. At ten we left the restaurant in a hurry not to miss a second of the fireworks. Once we arrived on the Promenade des Anglais, it was already packed with people cheering and having fun under the colourful lights of the fireworks. The show lasted around 30 minutes and when it finished, people were applauding the wonderful event they just witnessed. We left quickly, knowing that the city streets would get crowded really fast, making it hard to move around and were followed by hundreds of people. Since we were close to the Cours Saleya (old town) we decided to have a look around and maybe get some desert. The small alleys of the Vieux Nice were so full of people that we were stuck and could not walk freely. The atmosphere was still cheerful tough and tourists were eating ice creams and having drinks on terraces. We took small alleys to avoid the crowd and ended on the Place du Palais de Justice in order to get back to the restaurant where we ate before.
It was around 22h40 when we realised something was definitely wrong. We saw people running but could not understand why and where they were running from. Instinctively we thought a fight was happening or that people were running to catch the tramway that passes nearby. We looked around and asked pedestrians if they knew what was going on, but no one could tell us anything. At that point we decided it would be safer to quickly get away from the crowd, since during these nights of celebration getting sucked in by the crowd is never a good idea. We took rue du Marché which was the direction most of the people were taking, with the idea of going back to the restaurant. Some tourists stopped us to ask if we knew anything but we were unable to answer. We saw a young mother with a stroller running and desperately calling for her husband to run with her. Something was wrong and it was definitely worse than a small fight among drunk people.
We almost reached the stairs that bring from the old town to boulevard Jean Jaures – one of the main city alleys – when we heard shots fired. People started screaming and those that were running up the stairs to leave the Vieux Nice were now going back in panic, stumbling down on people. We panicked and the crowd around us got crazy. My first instinct was to get inside. I tried to tell my sister and my friends to get inside the door of the building close to us but I was pushed and entered into a shop that was being renovated together with two German girls. One of the workers immediately closed the rolling shutter. We stood for a second watching each other not knowing what to do, but then hid behind what seemed to be an ice-cream display. A girl that was already inside started screaming to shut the lights and that shots were fired. The workers were as shocked as we were and told us to get in the back of the shop. We moved back and stayed silent. All we could hear were screams and the sound of people running. My legs were shaking due to fear and the panic. My sister was not with me. I checked my phone to try and call her but the lines were not working, probably because everybody was trying to call and reach their loved ones. It was 22h43. Everything had happened so fast. I stayed inside for maybe 5 minutes when the street calmed down. I was then able to call my sister. She was hiding in a building close by with our friends and I joined them.
After we checked that everyone was fine, they told me all about what happened to them. At first, when we got separated by the crowd they hid in an alley. When they noticed I wasn’t with them. they came back on street screaming my name, looking for me everywhere but could not find me. They tried to call me non-stop but the lines were dead and could not reach me. They saw a police officer and immediately stopped her to ask for some information. The officer only told them to hide, stay calm and not to get out of the Vieux Nice because something serious had happened. She would not give any details no matter how many times they asked. My sister and my friends decided that it would be safer to hide somewhere inside, rather than staying outside: they managed to enter into a building together with a dozen of persons. They too were shaking from fear and not knowing where I was was not helping. My sister was so scared she could hear her heart pounding in her chest.
Once we were back together, we looked around and everybody was leaving the Vieux Nice, so we followed the crowd. We climbed the stairs and ended up on boulevard Jean Jaures at the height of rue Gubernatis, where madness greeted us. People were running wild, screams were echoing, cars where driving in haphazardly. We thought the danger had passed and started to walk home along Avenue Felix Faure. However, we noticed that people were running away from Place Masséna and decided to take another street. We walked further down and turned on rue de l’Hôtel des Postes. Down the street a man was running and screaming desperately looking for his son. We saw a man coming out of a bank and asked him if he knew anything. He told us that shots were fired on the Promenade des Anglais, on place Masséna and in Boulevard Jean Jaures in what is known as the coulee verte (a park crossing the whole city centre). Hearing this, some pedestrians and ourselves thought it would be better to take boulevard Victor Hugo which is currently closed for works to walk home. The street was almost desert and we got home safely. As soon as we arrived we turned on the news and heard about the tragedy on Promenade des Anglais caused by the truck. We stayed up most of the night answering our phones, and waiting for some news about what happened".