A family from Ballyclare who were caught up in last week’s horrific terror attack in Nice say they’re glad to be home with family and friends.
Zoe and Andrew Tisdale and their children Molly (11) and Finn (9) returned home to Northern Ireland on Tuesday afternoon (July 19).
They had been enjoying a family holiday in the French holiday resort, before the tragic events unfolded on Thursday, July 14.
The incident, which happened at around 11pm local time, saw a lorry plough into crowds of people as they enjoyed celebrations to mark Bastille Day - France’s national day.
More than 80 people died in the sickening attack, while dozens more were injured. The driver of the vehicle, an Islamic State sympathiser, was shot dead by police.
The young family, who had to run as the horror unfolded on the promenade, were eager to return home after the attack, but were unable to book earlier flights and were only able to get home on Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking to the Times, Zoe said: “It is good to be home and see all our family and friends again. We would have liked to have returned home a bit sooner, but we were unable to change our flights. We had to get on as best we could for the children’s sake. They are really glad to be home to see their grandparents again.
“Molly and Finn were shaken up after the attack, but we didn’t want their last memories of the Promenade Des Anglais to be the devastating scenes from Thursday. We returned to the promenade and laid flowers for all of the people who tragically lost their lives. It was important for our children to see how fortunate we had been.
“They had been a bit weary because there is still a high police and army presence in the city and with sirens continuing to go off, we had to reassure them that it was all okay and that the security forces were there to keep everyone safe and protect them.”
Zoe added: “The local people are trying to get back to normal, although the city is very quiet compared to what it was before Thursday.
“Restaurants are closing earlier than before the attack and some shops have remained closed.”
Zoe, who works as a classroom assistant at St James’s Primary School in Whiteabbey, had been enjoying the carnival atmosphere on Bastille Day with her family before the horrific events started to unfold.
She said: “We had been watching the fireworks display for Bastille Day at the beach. We came back up onto the promenade and had just crossed the road when all of a sudden we heard bangs and people started shouting and screaming.
“We didn’t know at this stage what was happening. We were about half a mile away from Hotel Negresco. We basically just ran away from the promenade and just followed all the crowds.
“People were shouting and crying and it was a very scary experience for the children.”
Zoe, who plays for Mossley Ladies Hockey Club, added: “Our children kept asking ‘mummy what’s wrong?’ I just had to say that I thought something bad had happened and that we needed to get back to the apartment - it was very distressing for them.
“We knew with everyone running that something really bad had happened so we just tried to get away as quickly as possible.”
Zoe said the attack would not deter her from returning to France, but that she wouldn’t visit again during a public celebration.
She said: “Obviously this attack took place during Bastille Day and I think I’d be a bit worried to come back again during that time in case it happened again. The children have said that they don’t want to come back to Nice. It was their first time here and it was a shame that this has happened. I wouldn’t like to say that we would never come back to France because I really enjoy it.
“It is a tragedy and is very rare - touch wood it doesn’t happen again.”
Following the attack, Zoe had posted a comment on Facebook to let everyone know that she and her family were all safe. She has received a lot of supportive messages on Facebook and would like to express her gratitude for all the well wishes.
She added: “I would like to thank everyone for their support. We received a lot of messages and well wishes and we’re all very thankful. I got messages on Facebook from people I don’t know, so it was really nice to know that we were in people’s thoughts.
“Local people in Nice, who had read our interview or saw us on the news wanted to pass on their messages of support - it was lovely.”
Zoe also thanked local radio broadcaster Stephen Clements, who contacted her with messages of support on social media.
On their return to Northern Ireland on Tuesday evening, the Tisdales enjoyed a ‘welcome home’ meal with family and friends.
Meanwhile, in a show of support for the people of France in the wake of the Nice attack, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council lit up several civic buildings red, white and blue on Friday evening. Flags at council properties were flown at half-mast as a mark of respect.