This Mom’s Baby Went Missing During the Nice Attack. Then a Friend Posted a Message on Facebook

It should have been a day of national celebration, but Bastille Day 2016 shook France to its core. In Nice, a terrorist deliberately drove a lorry along the Promenade des Anglais into hundreds of revelers. In the resulting chaos one baby boy became separated from his parents. Desperate to find him, they relied on social media for help.

July 14, 2016, will go down as a dark day in France’s history. On Nice’s normally blissful seafront a large crowd of men, women and children had gathered to watch the annual Bastille Day fireworks display. Eighty-four of them would never make it back home.

The terrorist – Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old man of French-Tunisian descent – worked in Nice as a driver. On Bastille Day 2016, he climbed into a lorry and drove down to the Promenade des Anglais.

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He then parked and waited… for nine hours. It was long enough to attract police attention, but while police questioned the driver they never searched the vehicle, which allegedly contained weapons. Neither did the police force the driver to move.

At about 10:30 p.m., the terrorist then started his engine, put his foot down on the accelerator and drove onto the pedestrian promenade along the beach. What followed was a sickening massacre.

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The terrorist drove directly into the crowd for about a mile. By the time police shot him dead, 74 adults and ten children lay lifeless on the road. The attack from the lorry left 200 more injured, 52 critically so. A further 25 were placed on life support.

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The driver had allegedly also fired shots into the crowd. He had no previous suspected terrorist ties and was “totally unknown” to French authorities. Regardless, reports following the attack indicate that his lorry also contained an automatic pistol, bullets and a grenade.

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While Daesh – the name the French use for the so-called Islamic State – has claimed responsibility for the attack, there isn’t any evidence that the the militant organization had given the driver any direct instructions. Indeed, the driver had no known ties to radical Islam.

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After the carnage, and the injury of hundreds more, stories of survival have risen that reveal just how frightening the situation was. Amid the confusion wives became separated from husbands, sisters from brothers, and children from parents.

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Among the youngest to get lost in the mayhem was a little boy of less than 10 months old. And so to help find him, a friend of the baby’s parents, Yohlaine Ramasitera, began harnessing the power of social media.

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As soon as she learned he was lost, she uploaded a photo of herself with the baby boy to Facebook. The picture was accompanied by a plea, in French, to contact her should anyone recognize the tiny child. It was a long shot, but worth a chance.

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Pastor Rebecca Boulanger, a friend of Ramasitera, spotted the plea in her Facebook timeline. Boulanger, who preaches at the Victory Christian Church in Nice, was at home with her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter and her husband Phillipe.

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She posted an equivalent update in English to ensure that Ramasitera’s appeal reached as many people as possible. “Yohlaine is my friend and member of my congregation,” Boulanger told the BBC. “When I saw her appeal about her friend’s missing baby I reacted the way I would want people to react if it was my child.”

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Boulanger explained that she had asked her social media contacts to “share, pray and believe” that the missing boy would be found safe and well. “We were due to go to see the fireworks that night but decided to stay home and put our baby to sleep, so we were shocked when we heard the news,” she added.

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Tavia Banner, the missing child’s aunt, also issued a Facebook appeal – one that was shared by over 22,000 others. The boy’s parents, meanwhile, desperately searched the Promenade des Anglais and the surrounding streets for any clues as to their baby’s whereabouts.

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Boulanger kept an eye on social media while staying in contact with Ramasitera. The two were desperate to help the family find their baby and hoped the right person would hear their message.

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Amazingly, within two hours of her status update, Ramasitera got the message she was waiting for. A woman had found the lost baby boy, taken him home and started searching the web for missing persons lists following the attack. The baby had miraculously escaped not only the attacking driver and lorry, but also the frenzied rush of the escaping crowd. The boy’s rescuer saw Ramasitera’s message and got in touch.

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Soon, the baby boy was having an emotional reunion with his hugely relieved parents – who have understandably asked that their privacy to be respected. The family, despite their ordeal, are reportedly on the road to recovery from the shock.

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“It was a miracle,” Boulanger told the BBC. “A picture of the child was requested from the woman to ensure that it was him, and then finally the baby was reunited with his worried parents.”

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“People often criticize social media, but one of the joys is that it has the power to bring hope to people amidst the darkness,” Boulanger said. Indeed, following such tragedy, the story of this little boy’s dramatic reunion with his parents provides reassurance about the good in most people.

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