In the hours following Thursday night’s attack in Nice, while the wounded were tended to and the dead shrouded in the streets, survivors and rescuers were confronted with silent reminders of the evening’s losses: A baby doll next to a small body wrapped in foil. A small pink hat, torn. A child’s plastic bike broken in two and forgotten in the middle of the road.
They were reminders that, in the indiscriminate brutality of a terror attack, even the youngest are not spared.
According to French prosecutor Francois Molins, 10 children and teenagers are among the 84 dead after a man drove a truck through a Bastille Day event on the crowded Promenade des Anglais. An unknown number of youth are injured or displaced from their families.
Terrorist attacks are always regarded as unconscionable violations of human life, but they seem especially heinous when children are involved. At a family-oriented celebration like the one taking place in Nice, it was nearly a guarantee they would be among the targets.
Children were the most vulnerable
Witness accounts paint a scene of peace and togetherness that devolved into mayhem. It is surely easy, it seems, for a child to get lost in the confusion, or worse. Dr. Richelle Christian, with Lenval Children’s Hospital in Nice, told CNN the hospital was treating three children in critical condition.
She said doctors were having trouble identifying children because so many were separated from their families. Of the wounded, some seemed to be trampled as people tore through the streets in panic.
A Twitter account called “Recherce Nice” (Nice Researche) is appearing to post pictures and tweets from families and friends trying to locate their loved ones. Several are children. Some are marked as found, while other posts begging for information remain unanswered.
Haunting images at the scene
Tarubi Wahid Mosta, a Parisian actor who was vacationing in Nice, was stepping out for a smoke when he saw commotion. “People were running and screaming in the street,” he told CNN. He took his camera and set off to see what was going on.
“On the ground there were a lot of things that people had lost of forgotten or left,” he said. He posted the pictures of abandoned children’s toys. There was even an empty stroller, its occupant presumably scooped up in the rush to escape the scene.
Mosta posted the pictures to Facebook. “Families…decimated in a moment,” he wrote.
To give an idea of how many young children were present at the scene of the attack, a photo provided to CNN by an eyewitness shows a truck that was being used to clean up the scene. Piled in the back are dozens of strollers, forgotten in the chaos and unaccounted for.
A French cartoonist paid tribute to the slain children with a quote from novelist Victor Hugo.
A family on vacation, shattered
We are still learning about the victims, young and old.
A father and son from Texas are among the dead, according to a family representative. Sean Copeland, 51, and his son Brodie, 11, were on vacation with other family members celebrating a birthday.
“We are heartbroken and in shock over the loss of Brodie Copeland, an amazing son and brother who lit up our lives, and Sean Copeland, a wonderful husband and father,” the family said. “They are so loved.”
Brodie played baseball, and his team posted a message about his passing: “Nobody deserves that type of fate,” it read.