We’ve had Nice, then at the beginning of this week Würzburg, now München – it’s getting hard to keep track of all the public massacres these days!
Still, there remains one ray of light amidst all this gloom. And that is the hero of the Nice attack – only just over a week ago – a guy named Franck. (Just so you know: That’s a somewhat common French first name, the guy obviously wants to withold his last name to better control his privacy.) He’s the brave gentleman who was on his scooter on the Promenade des Anglais and promptly pursued the terrorist’s truck on its deadly path, and who is in fact credited with helping to slow it down so that police ultimately had an easier time shooting the driver.
Amazingly, Franck survived the episode, I believe he wasn’t even injured. The same cannot be said, however, for that scooter he was riding. As I already mentioned on Twitter, there’s now a French-based crowdfunding appeal going on, via the “Leetchi” website, to raise the funds at least to buy him a new scooter.
Even as I write this, they’ve already raised just over €11,000 there so far. The sort of scooter they have in mind buying for him (“PIAGGIO mp3 300 LT sport ABS/ASR Black matt sport”) is listed right there. Interestingly, that same Crowdfunding page has a full picture of Franck at the top (and which I have put here): a fit, distinguished-looking gentleman with dark hair but a white beard (so aged, say, between 45 and 55). More interestingly still, that same page has Franck’s account of the incident, albeit a shortened version. But there is also a link to the full version in an “exclusive” interview piece in the local paper there, Nice-Matin.
I’m going to translate that account (from Nice-Matin) for you here starting from when the truck appears on the scene. I know, usually I’m supposed to add some clever theme or comment in blogposts like these, but not here, the point is self-evident. Accuse me of being lazy if you like, on this summer Saturday morning, but it’s quite a wild tale.
We were in the middle of the road. There weren’t many cars. I had to ride at no faster than 60 km/hr. I didn’t even have the time to look in my rear-view mirror. And there he was, passing right by me like a shot. He was driving on the sidewalk. I have in my mind images of bodies flying all around. I understood immediately. I then decided to accelerate. My wife, behind me, pulled my arms and asked where I was going. I stopped. I told her: get off! And I accelerated full-throttle.
To catch him, I needed to slalom. Between all the people, living and dead. I was going like the wind. I could only brake with the rear wheel since I had one hand blocked. I even remember crying out under my helmet. I was crying out to the dead, in fact… All that I had my eyes on was the rear of the truck. I was determined to take things all the way to the end.
He continued to switch back-and-forth from the road to the sidewalk. Hitting people everywhere. At one moment I had almost reached the rear of the truck, since I had a 300 cm3 [bike] and that can accelerate fast. I wanted to stop him at any price. I was in some parallel world, but also lucid. So I managed to put myself on his left side, my objective was to reach the cabin.
When I was at his level, I asked myself: what are you going to do with your poor scooter? It’s then that I threw it against the truck. I continued to run after him. I remember falling then getting back up on all fours. I didn’t know anymore what I was doing. And finally I managed to attach myself to his cabin.
I was on the steps at the same level as the open window. Facing him. I hit out, hit out and hit out some more. With all my force, with my left hand even though I am right-handed. Hit him on the face. He didn’t say anything. He did not respond.
He had his weapon in his hand. But the pistol didn’t work. I had the impression that he was trying to manipulate it or to load it, I don’t know anything about that. He aimed it at me, pulled the trigger, but it didn’t work.
I was ready to die, for real! I was lucid and ready to die to stop him. And I continued to hit him. I tried to pull him out of the cabin through the window. Because I didn’t manage to open this bitch of a door [cette putain de porte]. And I kept on hitting… Then he finished by pistol-whipping me across the head. That’s when I started to have troubles. I then fell from the platform and I got back on it right away!
That’s all there is on the on-line page. There’s also a note that the interview in its true entirety is available from what are presumably the paper editions of Nice-Matin or two other affiliated papers from the French Riviera.
Again, this is such a remarkable, uplifting tale that I’m surprised word of it has not spread more widely – say, to the leading US papers. I’m also surprised Franck has not been invited to the Elysée Palace by President Hollande; surely that is yet to come, unless Franck really wants to avoid all the hero-worship which deservedly should come his way.
(And then the lucrative commercial endorsements – for Piaggio, say: “When I have to stop a terrorist – well, speaking franckly [and this pun would also work in French], I know I can always rely on my Piaggio LT Sport!” Sorry: I’ll stop now.)