Even after all the horror, all the deaths of these last years with the world under a constant alert from terrorists, the shock is every bit as stunning, the scenes every bit as gruesome.
How many times will our hearts be broken?
We know it will be many days, perhaps weeks, before we know all we need to know about the Thursday attack in Nice, France, that took the lives of more than 80 people, including two Americans, and seriously wounded others. We do know that it was utterly deranged, a man driving a truck at people in the resort community, and that it took a while before all those present realized it was intentional. The Promenade des Anglais is a seaside street where tourists stroll in leisure, not run in fear for their lives.
But such is the way of terrorism, which is linked to this tragedy by officials in France. The country has been under a state of emergency since terrorist attacks in Paris in November, and President Francois Hollande has extended it.
This attack came on the evening of Bastille Day, a national celebration in France of the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution. It is a patriotic holiday that celebrates the bravery and fortitude of those who stoked the revolution of 1789.
But on this day, a coward consumed by hate conducted a mass murder before police killed him. It was a crime without reason, without any sane motivation.
President Obama issued a statement in support of the French government and the people. Indeed, the French have been this country’s oldest allies, dating to the American Revolution and continuing through World Wars and too many battles around the globe.
Now the investigations will begin, and as always the people – and that means the people of the world – will want answers and want them quickly. But Americans and others have learned that finding the root cause of this attack will take time and investigation, and that seeking a reason will be maddening because terrorists, whether acting in a group or individually, don’t need reasons.
This is a time for the nations of the world to demonstrate solidarity and determination. Terrorism is the ally of none and the enemy of all.
An ever-present threat
America has itself been a terror target, of course, but since Sept. 11, 2001, its government agents and military have worked to prevent other mass attacks. The threat remains ever present because terrorists come in many forms and because their motivations are bizarre except for a common thread of wanting to kill innocent people.
The peace-loving nations of the world must continue international efforts to destroy those who encourage and support and participate in terrorism, and there must be ever-more intense intelligence gathering and strikes against terror “cells” and individual suspects who might one day hope to do what the deranged driver in Nice did.
But we cannot make of this world a prison. The people of Nice and their visitors were enjoying on Thursday a celebration of the fight for freedom. And freedom still reigns there and in many other countries where it was hard-won and has sometimes been challenged but preserved.
The task now for the world’s leaders is to maintain that freedom, to strengthen it, while finding and eradicating those who would threaten it. The fight will go on and on, it appears. But it will never be given up.