For Harjit Sarang, what should have been an enjoyable final evening to a family holiday turned into a nightmare experience.
Sarang found herself in the aftermath of the Bastille day attack in Nice, France. At least 84 people were killed, 10 of them children, and more than 200 injured when a man drove a 19-tonne truck at high speed into crowds at a public event at the Promenade des Anglais last Thursday (14).
Sarang, a 42-year-old lawyer from St Albans, had just watched a fireworks display with her husband and two young sons when she saw a huge rush of people starting to run.
“We did not know why they were running, but they seemed to be running like their lives depended on it. So we just picked up the kids and started running with them; it was so scary,” Sarang told Eastern Eye.
Running through the scenes of pandemonium, carrying their nine and seven-year-old children, the family managed to get to their hotel, only to find the doors shut as the lobby was packed with
people seeking refuge.
“We were banging on the door asking to be let in; lucky a receptionist recognised us,” said Sarang. Outside, in the chaos, no one was stationary; everybody was running and people in flats and apartments were letting people inside.
Sarang explained how after being let back into the hotel, they just went upstairs and closed the blinds and tried to calm and settle the children.
After trying to get information online with an intermittent internet service, she was alarmed more to hear that there was reports of a gunman taking hostages at a hotel.
“It made me think, is the gunman in our hotel? I started tweeting people, asking if they knew which hotel the gunman was at? The stupidest thing was that neither of us thought to turn the TV on to find out what was going on. That was just out of panic,” said Sarang.
That night, Sarang said the family all slept together fully clothed as they did not know whether they would have to flee any minute.
“It was just a frightening time because nobody knew what was going on until the morning,” she explained.
In an attempt to try and shield her children from what had happened, Sarang had explained it to them as the actions of a drunk truck driver, but this proved impossible to maintain as everyone was talking about it and it was everywhere in the media.
“I do worry about the boys and how it affected them. For the kids to run like that for ten minutes frightened the life out of them, and us too” said Sarang.
Last Thursday’s mass killing by Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, which was claimed by the Islamic State, was the third in France since January 2015.
Nice’s seafront boulevard has reopened after the attacks as French lawmakers were on Tuesday to debate extending the country’s state of emergency for a fourth time.