Hoosiers in France recall terrifying moments after terror attack
NICE, France – Some Hoosiers provided firsthand accounts of the chaos and panic that followed a terror attack in France.
Andrew Gentry and Lyle Feigenbaum were both in Nice when a driver opened fire and mowed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. At least 84 people died, including two Americans. Dozens more were hurt.
Gentry grew up in Richmond before going to law school in Paris. He now lives in France and goes to Nice every weekend between July and September. Gentry was having dinner and preparing to watch fireworks. He said he was about 400 yards away from where the truck came through.
“All of a sudden they jump up and I turn around to see what happened and this literal tsunami of people are coming up in this gigantic wave, hands in air, throwing chairs, ripping up everything to clear a path (and) trying to get away to escape something. Total panic,” he recounted.
“A woman screamed at us, ‘They’re terrorists! They’re killing people, they have guns, they’re shooting people, killing people. Run! Run! Don’t stay here!”
Gentry bolted with the crowd. He ran into a restaurant and was told not to go inside because it could create a hostage situation.
“There’s a microscopic ice cream parlor next to me, thousands of people are basically stampeding in and they’re pulling down their iron curtain and people are literally banging on the iron curtain that they closed begging to let them in,” Gentry said.
He saw people running and screaming. Some parents literally dragged their children along the pavement as they tried desperately to find a safe place.
He returned to the restaurant and found his friends. They were just getting ready to settle the bill when the attack happened and had left cell phones, wallets and purses behind on the table in their haste to get away.
“Most of us cried all night. I got two hours of sleep all night (after) seeing 10 people dead, 30 people… now it’s up to 84,” Gentry said.
“We’re fortunate we’re alive.”
Lyle Feigenbaum, the owner of Bloomington’s Scholars Inn Bakehouse, was also nearby. Feigenbaum said he was a few blocks away. He saw people running through the streets and originally thought it was part of Bastille Day festivities.
“We were having such a great time, such a really lovely evening, and initially we saw these people running through the streets and it felt like, I guess it felt like kids having a fun run or something I don’t know how to describe (it).”
He quickly figured out something else was going on. People were in a panic.
“Then I saw people getting trampled over… and you realize this is serious.”
He and his group went to the cellar in their restaurant before getting back to their hotel.
“It was hordes and hordes of people rushing toward us. And so my initial fear was we could get trampled over and that’s why I wanted to get out of harm’s way and into a building.”
Feigenbaum checked Twitter and found out about the terrorist attack that had taken place just blocks away.
“My wife and I were saying had we gone out earlier, we would’ve had dinner and then probably went back to that place and had drinks where it happened. We’re very thankful that didn’t happen,” he said.
“As an American it was strange, because you just don’t assume that it’s a terrorist attack and Europeans you can tell they’re a little more on edge,” Feigenbaum recalled.
He said he and his wife are headed to Barcelona and won’t alter their plans.