OPEN LETTER: Junior Colin Kruse reacts to the summer terrorist attack in Nice

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I, Colin Kruse, witnessed the panic and commotion of one of the most devastating acts of terrorism perpetrated this year.

It was a windy July night on the Mediterranean. I was studying French in the beautiful city of Nice for an entire month. I stood on the Promenade Des Anglais watching the Bastille Day fireworks with my fellow students: ten Americans, two Brazilians and one Briton.

After the fireworks show, my group split up, and I was with five girls near a deejay booth on the promenade. Around 10:30 p.m., I saw people running in the distance along the stone beaches below me. I heard no screaming or gunfire, but I immediately panicked. Soon, the people around me began running, too. I joined them.

Without any idea of what was happening, I cut through a side street to return to the Lycee Massena, the school where my group was staying. The feeling of running for my life was so surreal. A girl running next to me asked, “Is this a terrorist attack?”

As I tried to get back to the Lycee, I was met by a crowd of people running in the opposite direction. Anticipating the pops of gunshots, I turned around and ran as fast as I ever have. Before long, I was in an alleyway. The people around me began walking, and I could not hear or see any commotion or panic. Then, I saw the open back door of a restaurant called Campo di Fieri, located along the main market of Nice’s Old Town.

I climbed into the attic, where I was with about thirty other people, all of whom were French, I believe. Nobody knew what just happened. There were rumors of a bombing at the airport, but other people heard that someone rammed a truck into a crowd of people. One person said he heard gunfire. I called my parents and informed them of the situation. Then, I called my program’s New York office. As I stayed in the attic of the restaurant, there did not seem to be any commotion outside. I walked back to the restaurant’s ground floor when I heard someone yell, “Shooter!” Panicked, I ran back upstairs. Soon, everyone in the room was told to hide. After taking cover for ten tense minutes, someone announced that the police were sweeping the area. Eventually, the police gave an “all-clear”.

A counselor from the program picked me up at the restaurant, and we ran back to the Lycee Massena. Luckily, no one in my group was injured. I was the only person to not return immediately.

That night, a Muslim resident of Nice drove a large truck onto the Promenade and killed 84 people; he started his attack about a mile from where I was standing when I started to run.

Since the attack, I have come to some important conclusions on how society must combat terrorism.

We cannot combat terrorism with hate or xenophobia; a third of those killed on the Promenade des Anglais that night were Muslims. Because of its location on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice has always been a huge destination for immigrants from Algeria and Tunisia. The third generation of Muslim immigrants, those who live in the poor banlieues on the outskirts of the large cities in Europe and are ostracized from French, Belgian, or German society, are the ones terrorist groups like ISIS are recruiting.

Scapegoating the Muslim community for the atrocities that have occurred, American politicians have talked about banning Muslim immigration or patrolling Muslim neighborhoods or mosques. All of these ideas play directly into the terrorist organizations’ hands. We must not combat their hate with hate of our own. We must strive for respect, tolerance and acceptance with everyone in this country. Fear-mongering and division will only lead to more people in our society accepting the craziness that is radical Islam. This attack has left me traumatized, but at the same time, what happened on the 14th of July in Nice, France, further shows that we must be united as one against terrorism.

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