The Tragedy Of Nice

Remembering Nice. Like the rest of the world I watched the news in horror as the vehicle tore through the crowd and took more than 80 innocent lives in Nice. It made one think of the fragility of life and the murderous stupidity of those who cause these deaths. There is always a special horror when a celebration turns into a tragedy -- and when the tragedy has tentacles that reach out and touch the world. Such is this event in Nice. It feeds the fears of those who conflate freedom with danger -- and helps the likes of a Donald Trump. His campaign will depend upon every tragic act of terrorism between now and November to frighten his way to an electoral victory. Trust me on this, terrorism is a big part of his playbook -- his promise to end it or control it by huffing and puffing and cursing the terrorists while attacking innocent Muslims degrades the lives lost and compounds the problem. The Middle East is filled with cities where car bombs and suicide bombers cause multitudes to die -- but it is only when it reaches a beloved city like Nice that the Western world truly shivers and thinks, "It could have been me."

Time travel. How the world has changed. Nice -- 1953. My new young wife and I have flown to Nice on a small single-engine plane to escape Franco's Spain where she had become violently ill -- some form of food poisoning. She had eaten some chocolate covered pork sandwich purchased from a street stall in Madrid and was sickened by it. The only doctor we could find in Madrid was an ex-Nazi who clicked his heels as he examined her. We felt that he would soon tell us to join the others on the right line heading for the "showers" and we left for the nearest safe city -- Nice being that city. The one-engine plane that we took was buffeted by strong winds, its only other passenger was a nun with a Mediterranean mustache who was praying loudly for our safe landing.

My wife departed the plane -- it was a time when everyone left a plane, small or large, by way of a portable stairway -- and she became ill again. A photographer took a photo of this beautiful woman looking sick and disheveled -- and asked if we would buy it. Since I could curse in seven languages I told him what he could do with his photo in my best high school French. He had greater success with the nun.

My wife recovered in a day. We hired those pedal boats and had the infantile fun of splashing around the Mediterranean. We spotted Bardot wearing a Bikini bathing suit in nearby Juan Les Pins -- so lovely -- everything that was imperfect about her was what made her perfect.. My wife bought a rather conservative bikini in pink checkered fabric -- but not so conservative that when later she was wearing it at her mother's stuffy beach club on Long Island -- she was asked to change into something less shocking or leave the club. Nice was still a travel poster for the young, and the affluent from pre-war days. It was changing from a world of Noel Coward at a white piano to that of a beaded rock performer with an electric guitar. I don't much care for resorts -- never have -- but this one was charming -- pink stucco against a cerulean blue sky, and a sea that sparkled like antique mine cut diamonds, meant to delight rather than to dazzle. Now, Nice will forever be the scene of a great tragedy. And the grief of those survivors -- the families -- the image of the empty baby carriage -- it will remain with us forever. Let us not make it a greater tragedy by allowing Trump to further exploit every act of terrorism and win the presidency. It is normal to think that nobody could be so evil as to wish for innocents to be harmed by terrorists in order to gain a political victory. Well, think again. Someone is.