Young people from France’s universal national service stood and applauded as the parade began, happy to witness the event in person.
Jinnia Tchamo-Kwahou was one of them, participating for the first time. She said the parade was “wonderful, majestic and awe-inspiring”.
A flyover of a fighter jet wowed the crowd as its opening formation trailed red, white and blue smoke above the Arc de Triomphe.
On the eve of July 14, Macron hailed Ukraine’s unexpected ability to deal with Russian aggression. He called for a review of France’s military organization to make it more agile in the face of evolving threats.
“Each of us was struck by the moral strength of the Ukrainian nation which allowed it to hold on despite an initially unfavorable balance of power,” Macron said on Wednesday evening.
In his Thursday interview, he warned that Russia may cut off all gas to Europe in protest against Western sanctions.
He said France would work to find alternative energy sources, but urged the public to turn off unnecessary lights and join a national effort for energy “sobriety”.
“Russia uses energy, like it uses food, as a weapon of war,” he said.
“We have to prepare for the scenario where we have to do without all Russian gas.”
Macron and other dignitaries presided over Thursday’s event which was attended by more than 6,000 people and 200 horses from the French Republican Guard, as well as 65 planes, 25 helicopters and 181 vehicles.
A Reaper, a sophisticated American combat drone, flew over the parade. Such a drone embodies the modernization of French military equipment and has been used in Niger and elsewhere in the Sahel region of Africa as part of the French military operation to defeat the jihadists.
Drones are also a powerful symbol of the war in Ukraine, where they are used more extensively than in any other war to date.
The motto for this year’s Bastille events, Share the Flame, referred to France hosting the Olympic Games in 2024. Medal-winning Olympic and Paralympic athletes were honored at the end of the parade.
July 14, 1789, Bastille Day marks the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris by angry mobs that helped spark the French Revolution and, by extension, a spirit of national unity through the broad rights granted to citizens in the years that followed.
Despite all the demonstrations and other tensions that France has faced in recent years, the events of July 14 offer a moment of conviviality and celebration.
Priyogika Baddrani, a Sri Lankan refugee who works as a housekeeper in Paris, felt honored to be part of the July 14 parade staff.
“My children, my husband and my mother live in France,” she said. “France has become my home, providing me with security, work and a good salary.”