Estonian in Nice: We left the area right before the attack (1)
Together with his family, Estonian businessman Peter Priisalm, partner and investment manager at asset management firm Avaron, left the Bastille Day celebrations going on in Nice late Thursday evening only shortly before the deadly attack on the crowd, finding out only an hour later just how lucky they had been in doing so.
"Locals considered the evening's fireworks display to be the most important event," Priisalm told ERR's radio news. "When we went to watch the fireworks, the crowd of people was truly massive. The beach promenade there is fairly long, and it seemed like it was completely packed."
Priisalm and his family were approximately one kilometer, or over half a mile, away from the fireworks' launch site. Although the display was in his opinion spectacular, they decided to leave fifteen minutes after the show began, partly because his children were tired, and partly because a conversation had with a local ice cream man earlier in the evening continued to weigh on his wife.
"Our mood was ruined somewhat by the fact that just before heading over to watch the fireworks, we stopped by an ice cream shop we had visited a couple of days before as well and whose owners left a very good impression on us," recalled Priisalm.
"When we stopped by there for ice cream again, the owner's son-in-law was selling ice cream," he continued. "He said that in his opinion there weren't a lot of people in the old town ... and some feared that the next attack would be on the waterfront. My wife took this conversation with him to heart a bit."
The family had returned to their hotel by approximately 10:30 p.m. When Priisalm thereafter first heard sirens, he initially paid them no mind.
"But when the sirens were still going an hour later, I decided to check if the ice cream seller's prediction had come true," he said. "When I started watching the news, it finally began to dawn on me just how lucky we were that we had left there early. We can say that guardian angels were with us."
Priisalm noted that even before yesterday's attack he had noticed an unusually large number of armed soldiers around the southeastern French coastal city. "There were soldiers with automatic weapons on the streets, moving about the city center's parks and the old town in groups of four," he recalled.
The Estonian businessman said that the day would surely be a sad one in Nice, and a personal tragedy for many local residents there.