Nice is a lovely, touristy beach town in Southern France.
Graz is Austria's second largest city and very quaint.
Santa Monica is the representation of the California lifestyle.
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I've lived in two of those places and visted one several times as a tourist. And all three have one thing in common: they all were locations where vehicles were used as weapons. The incident in Santa Monica was the one that made me realize that this can happen anywhere. This is how I experienced it:
I heard the fluttering for the first time while sitting in front of my computer to do some research for a paper for college. It was around lunchtime on a regular sunny summer Wednesday in Santa Monica. The noise grew louder and louder by the second. I looked out the window in my home office but didn’t see anything. I walked into the living room where the windows were facing the city center. There, I saw the source of the fluttering noise. A cluster of several helicopters was hovering over the rooftops of downtown Santa Monica. They were all news helicopters and very low above the rooftops. They were so close that I was able to read the writing on the side of the helicopters identifying which helicopter belonged to which news station. What happened? The helicopters did not move. They kept hovering over the same spot; therefore, it could not have been a high-speed car chase. Was it a shooting? Maybe. Or a robbery? Possibly. There were many banks in that area. Should I lock the apartment door? In any case, continuing with my paper was no longer an option. Fear and curiosity made me want to find out what was going on.
Since they were all news helicopters, I thought that there might already be some live footage on TV. My heart was racing. What was happening? This was nerve-wracking. I turned on KCAL9 News, as that channel seemed to have the most local news coverage over the course of the day. And there it was. The overhead camera angle showed the Third Street Promenade, the nearby pedestrian zone, which was the location of a beautiful farmers’ market each Wednesday and Saturday. The farmers’ market stretched over two blocks along Arizona Avenue crossing the pedestrian zone of the Promenade. My apartment was only a few blocks away from the scene. The building vibrated from the close proximity to the powerful chopper rotors. The noise was intense. It was surreal to see the helicopters outside my window and at the same time watch on TV what they were filming from above. On the live TV stream, I saw that some of the fruit and vegetable stands had been knocked down. Oranges, apples, zucchinis, onions and more were scattered on the asphalt between thin wooden planks that used to hold up the stands. People stumbled around in confusion, trying to leave the area on foot. As far as I could tell from the footage, it appeared as if some people were crying and throwing their hands in the air in anguish.
The reporters talked about speculations that an older man drove through the farmers’ market with his car at full speed hitting people and market stands. These speculations were confirmed shortly after. Later, eyewitnesses claimed during interviews that he seemed annoyed about not being able to drive down Arizona Avenue and having to go around the farmers’ market. He didn’t want to take a detour, turned onto Arizona Avenue and hit the gas plowing through the crowd. Supposedly there were no break lights and no skid marks. He came to a stop at the corner of Arizona and Second Street. Ten people, among them also children, were killed within a few minutes and the lives of their families had changed forever.
Here is a news article on the tragedy from 2003: http://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/West/07/16/farmers.market.crash/
This is an excerpt from my book 'LAlien - From the Austrian Alps to the Hollywood Hills' available at the following outlets:
in Austria: https://www.mymorawa.com/self-publishing/gestaltung/publizieren/?books/ID47437/LAlien
in Europe: https://www.amazon.de/dp/3990498703/ref=rdr_ext_tmb
in the US: https://www.amazon.com/LAlien-Cornelia-E-Miedler/dp/3990498703/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468262990&sr=8-1&keywords=Lalien
in Vienna at the Morawa and Shakespeare & Company bookstore