The summer vacation to France was Sara Luka’s first trip to that country.
She and her children, Tiger, 8, and Nell, 6, had flown from Walnut Creek to Europe to do what most tourists set out to do: Enjoy the sights, tour museums, soak in a new culture and have a good time.
That’s what they were doing on Thursday night at a Bastille Day fireworks celebration in the southern French city of Nice, when they saw the white truck plow into revelers, killing more than 80 people.
“I grabbed my daughter,” Luka said, her voice still shaking, in a phone interview Friday morning with NBC Bay Area from her hotel room. “I told them not to look at people.”
Graphic video taken on the street outside the Promenade des Anglais, a seaside boulevard, shows people dead and dying on the ground.
About 10:30 p.m., a truck, driven by a man the Nice mayor identified as 31-year-old Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, drove into the crowd, mowing down people right and left until he was shot and killed by police officers. Why he did it, and his affiliation to any group, if any, has not been made clear.
Luka, who was born in Poland before she moved the Bay Area in 1992, could barely put words to describing the Zombie-like aftermath: “Imagine hundreds of people running and screaming with you. I can’t even tell you how many people. You see all these people just crying and screaming. Not just 20 people but hundreds of people, thousands of people.”
She said her son keeps asking her: "Why are terrorists trying to kill people?"
Before that, she said, the evening had been wonderful. She and her children, who attend French school in Oakland, had joined other spectators, which also included Livermore couple Mark and Jennifer Duran, for the annual Bastille Day celebration. “Everything was beautiful,” she said. “Everyone was clapping at the end of the fireworks. Because of the noise, we didn’t even realize that a truck had driven into people.”
Then there were sounds that sounded like bombs. And crying. And screaming. "It's really hard to explain the feeling of seeing so many people running for their life at the same time," she said.
On Friday morning, Luka said she wasn’t sure what she was going to do next. She had original plans to go to Poland, but had inquired with the airlines about leaving earlier than July 21, but was told there was $1,000 change fee that she didn’t way to pay.
Outside the hotel room is a lovely park, one her children would love playing in. But Luka said she wasn’t going to let them go there. “I’m afraid,” she said. “It’s a very popular thing in Europe to talk and smoke on the street. Today, they are also out on the street. But they are just looking at each other in quiet. Everybody’s so sad.”