After members of the Fresno City College City Singers returned home after being in France during the Nice terrorist attack, I asked director Julie Dana if any of them would be willing to write about the experience. Kenneshae Murray, a sophomore studying music at the college, volunteered. She sings alto. Here are her thoughts:
A trip to a recently terrorized country is nothing less than a very humbling and life changing experience.
Being without media in a foreign country, it was not until the night of the attack when we were bombarded with messages from home that we realized what had happened. After we found out about the severity of the attack, we decided to dedicate a few songs to the audience as we shared our music with the people of Aveyron on a six day tour. The amount of gratitude we received was unforgettable. I have never received such appreciation for something I have been doing my entire life.
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After our last performance in Aveyron, we knew the time had finally come. We would have our most important and unforgettable performance in Nice at the memorial. Walking amongst the shadows of those who were recently lost was very humbling. The hundreds of flowers, pictures, paintings, and posters were overwhelming. Although we could not read the posters or understand the language that was being spoken around us, we knew. We knew the words that were being thought and conveyed. The looks of sorrow and loss were universal. We did not know anyone, but we all understood each other, which was very unifying. It did not matter what age, country of origin, or gender we were; we were all there for the same reason: to mourn over the loss of innocent people at the hands of a person full of hate.
We were given the opportunity to sing of peace at the memorial. Although we had performed those songs many times before, this was the first time they made sense. The words and melody rushed into the air as we realized, for the first time, their real meaning. We realized not only what peace really meant, but how music can change and unify people.
My heart goes out to the families who lost anyone at the attack: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
The once peaceful streets of Nice will never be the same, and neither will I.