Boston’s French diaspora, determined to move past the tragedy in Nice, France, on Friday night honored those killed as they celebrated their nation’s biggest holiday — Bastille Day.“We cannot let the actions of a single person affect everyone,” said David Reichert, who was born in Nice but raised in Boston.That spirit was front and center Friday night at the French Cultural Center’s Bastille Day celebration, where hundreds, including French nationals and Americans, gathered the day after the July 14 holiday.After an emotional moment of silence for the victims in the Nice terror attack, Catheline van den Branden, the center’s president, called the celebration bittersweet.
“It’s bitter because of the attacks last night, and this is not the first one,” she told the crowd at the Back Bay center. “But it is also sweet to us because every time these horrible events have happened, we have recognized a community in Boston and the Boston area that it is incredibly friendly, incredibly kind, and generous.” View StoryFormer Springfield journalist recalls terror in Nice“The panic spread instantly,” said Bill Rapp.The center’s 41st annual Boston Bastille Day celebration came just one day after the massacre in Nice, which killed more than 80 and injured some 200. Security was tight, with Boston police officers out in full force and two large Boston Public Works trucks at both entrances.It is important to mourn the Nice victims, Branden said, but it is even more important to honor them.As crowds trickled into the event, greeted by the aroma of freshly made crepes and French flag-themed decorations, they did their best to beat back the heavy sense of tragedy.Middleton residents Bernadette Powers and John Reagan attended the celebration to show support for the country and culture they love.
They also had another reason: They love French wine. Powers and Reagan sat at a small round table, enjoying glasses of pinot noir, talking about how they celebrated their marriage in France last year, just a few months after two shooters stormed the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 11.But when they think of France, they don’t think of the terror it has endured over the past year. They reminisce about the beautiful poppies and lavender that lined the roads as they drove from Normandy to Nice.“The way to react is to not alter your life,” Reagan said.That is how Judith Guillou, the press attaché at the French Consulate in Boston, encouraged people to respond. She said the attacks in Nice must not interrupt Bastille Day celebrations.“It’s still really important to celebrate it,” Guillou said.Earlier Friday at a press conference in the lobby of the French Consulate in Boston, Consul General Valéry Freland called for a moment of silence to honor those killed in the attack.“After the terror attack in Nice, our thoughts go out to the victims and their families,” Freland said. “I’d like to thank American authorities and American people for their strong support and many expressions of solidarity and sympathy.”Freland said it is now more important than ever for the United States and France to stand together against acts of terror.“France and the United States share the same values of liberté, égalité, fraternité,” he said, invoking his country’s national motto.Friday night at the French Cultural Center, Celine Gyger stood in line to buy a crepe. Gyger said she comes from a French family and Thursday’s attack hit her hard.“We were in Paris in December after the attacks, and now it’s the second time,” she said as she stood with her young son. “Now we’re far away, but we’re still hurt.”Jérôme Bergere used to own a restaurant on Promenade des Anglais, the same seafront street where the truck plowed into the crowds watching fireworks.Friday night, he was selling fine French cuisine to a steady stream of customers. Bergere, who moved his La Voile restaurant to Newbury Street, said he was glad to see such a strong showing at the event.“We should represent France right, instead of being scared and staying home,” he said, as he handed a customer a plate of duck rillettes.“Bon appétit,” he said.