I Lived Through The Terror Attack In Nice — Here's Why I Have Hope For Berlin

Kara Ayla Wolf is a writer based in Germany. Ahead, she shares her story of experiencing Monday's deadly truck attack in Berlin, just months after living through a similar incident in Nice, France. Her piece originally appeared on Refinery29's German site.

With just days to go until Christmas, the popular holiday market in Berlin was bustling with activity.

But at about 8 p.m., violence and chaos rocked the scene. A truck rammed into the crowd, killing 11 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe it was a deliberate attack.

Thankfully, I was safe in my apartment in another part of the city when the terror struck, far from the market. But when I heard the news, my mind flooded with memories of another close encounter with a senseless attack that I experienced just months before.

On July 14 of this year, I was among the 30,000 people gathered on the promenade in Nice, France, to celebrate the French national holiday Bastille Day. I lived in France for 10 months during my studies, spending eight of those in the popular tourist destination.

I went home early that night, just after the fireworks were done, to finish my master's thesis and prepare for an early appointment the next day.

In trying times like these, our mantra must be, 'No fear, no hatred.'

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That night, a truck ran over a crowd of people celebrating and laughing. The similarities between that night and what happened in Berlin were eerie. Many people were killed. Many were injured. Again. And again, all my friends and family asked me anxiously if I was okay.

The night after the Nice attack was a sleepless one for me. I was shocked. My cell phone didn't stop ringing. I wanted to tell everyone that I was okay right away so they did not have to worry about me for even a second. I used Facebook's Safety Check feature to spread the news as quickly as I could.

When I woke up the next day, the sun was shining and the sky was perfectly blue. It looked like nothing had happened. Spending time alone was not an option for me and my French friends that day. Community and solidarity felt more important than ever.

Months later, back in Berlin, friends still ask me about that day. After the incident at the Christmas market, the Safety Check feature on Facebook was activated again. You could find it under the title Anschlag in Berlin, which translates to Terror Attack in Berlin — even before the police could tell for sure that it was a terror attack. (Later it was renamed Vorfall am Weihnachtsmarkt in Berlin, which means Incident at Christmas Market in Berlin). A lot of people sent me messages, saying that they were glad to see me marked as safe.

This morning, a friend reminded me that I had to do this for the second time this year — a terrifying realization.

I wanted to tell everyone that I was okay right away so they did not have to worry about me for even a second.

Both attacks hit so-called "soft targets," designations that describe people or things that are relatively unprotected or vulnerable. These targets include public places many people visit every day. Places like the promenade in Nice and the Christmas market in Berlin.

When I think about a Christmas market, I usually think about candy canes, coziness, twinkle lights, and "All I Want for Christmas" playing on repeat. The holiday traditions are symbols of community. The young and the old, tourists and locals, families and friends — you can meet all kinds of people there. But this morning, the term conjures feelings of loss and sorrow.

The whole time I spent in France, there were soldiers with machine guns in groups of three on the street and at the stations. They waited in front of museums and theaters. I had to let them check my purse when I wanted to get in. Now, people are asking why German Christmas markets haven't been protected more strictly.

"That was so predictable. They do not want us to have peaceful Christmas,” my French friend wrote to me yesterday. I tried to stay calm since the circumstances of the incident weren't really cleared up at that time and there was still the chance that it was all a tragic accident. Today, authorities confirmed that they believe it was no accident. The shock is deeply felt.

But I learned one important lesson from what I've experienced in Nice, and now, Berlin: We must not let fear guide our hearts in the wake of such terrible events. We must go out there and stay strong.

In times like these, solidarity and community are crucial forms of support. We must stay together, united for peace. There is no room for hatred and fear. The general suspicion of certain ethnic and religious groups is as useless as it is misguided.

From my own experience, I can say that while it won't be easy, it is important to go on. Otherwise, the assassins will achieve their goal: societies living in fear.

In trying times like these, our mantra must be, No fear, no hatred.

Translated by Anna
Hackbarth
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