Joel Dreyfuss is a Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.
Approaching the fifth anniversary of my move from New York to Paris, I was already careful about how I traveled and where I went long before Thursday’s horrific Bastille Day attack in Nice. I didn’t attend any of the soccer matches in my adopted city during the month-long Euro 2016 tournament that ended Sunday because I thought it was too tempting a terrorist target. I even went out of my way to avoid the fan zones packed with thousands of soccer aficionados. I increasingly felt silly as the tournament progressed, but I hunkered down and watched my favorite sport on TV in the safety of my living room, occasionally distracted by the flashing lights of the Eiffel Tower through the window.
My sense of security about living in France changed after Nov. 13, when terrorists took 130 lives in a bloody assault on restaurants, the Bataclan theater and near the Stade de France, site of Sunday’s final match between France and Portugal. My wife and I were in the stadium the night three suicide bombers tried to breach security during a match involving France and Germany, and blew themselves up. I can still remember feeling the sharp tug of the shockwave from the first blast, which went off several hundred yards below our seats.
These bloody acts of terrorism, the Charlie Hebdo and San Bernardino, Calif., shootings last year and the horrific airport bombings in Brussels and Istanbul, the unspeakable slaughters in Iraq and Afghanistan and the massacre in Orlando this year have all weighed on our everyday decisions in Paris. We try to bypass metro transfers at large train stations such as the Gare Saint-Lazare and the Gare Montparnasse, and we routinely skip events involving big crowds. And we sometimes question whether we should sit fully exposed at the famed Parisian sidewalk terraces.
We considered visiting Nice before returning to the United States for our annual summer vacation. We looked online at hotel rooms along the waterfront, but our schedules didn’t match our friends’ and we flew to New York instead last week. As cautious as we have become, we hadn’t considered Nice a target. After all, we know well this charming 2,000-year-old city of 350,000, situated between Cannes, home of the world’s most famous film festival, and Monaco, playland of the superwealthy. Nice is the closest thing in France to Miami. The city spills down a series of gentle hills to a breathtaking pebbled Mediterranean shore. The deep-blue waters bless the region with the mild weather that has made the French Riviera such a draw for the rich, the famous, the artists and all the others seeking sunshine. It has no obvious political significance like Paris or Brussels.
Yet Nice’s most famous thoroughfare, the graceful Promenade des Anglais with its stately rows of palm trees, became the killing field for a truck driver with murder on his mind. Plowing and shooting through a festive crowd that had just watched Bastille Day fireworks, he took at least 84 lives and injured scores of others before being shot dead by police. The incident will deeply alter our memories of this city, whose landmark hotels such as the turreted Negresco, where we have stayed, and the stately Palais de la Mediterranee long represented leisure, pleasure and a laid-back way of life.
This third major terrorist incident in France in 18 months will trigger more debates about why so many young immigrant men are alienated from French society and how best to combat a foe who can turn a ubiquitous object like a truck into a deadly weapon. But for most of us, the concerns will remain a lot more personal.
The slaughter in Nice is a reminder that security in our daily lives is an increasingly rare commodity anywhere we live. Back in New York this past week, I found myself making the same calculations about train stations to bypass and crowds to avoid. I’ve accepted that this caution is going to be the new normal in New York, Paris and countless other cities. Nice is just the latest battleground in a pop-up war that we don’t know how to end. In the meantime, we will be looking over our shoulders, mistrusting our neighbors and changing our routines in our efforts to stay off the list of victims.