To Barcelona, with love – The day after the terrorist attack at Las Ramblas

And then it happened: Facebook was asking me to reply to a safety tag over the terrorist attack in Barcelona.

Friends have been using it to enquire about my safety. Suddenly, I started receiving messages and calls from a lot of friends from all over to world, to check if I was ok, if I was safe. I called my parents in Brazil to reassure them I was fine before they read about the attacks and started to freak out…

I`ve been planning to write a post about Barcelona for a while now. It is, in the end, my city, not by birth but by choice. I`ve been living here since 2009 and this city brought me so many good things, I`ve been wanting to return the favour. My idea was to write a post today about the Fiestas de Gracia, one of the city`s biggest celebration, on it`s bicentenary. I was going there with my camera last night, to take some pictures of the beautiful decorated streets and the happy sea of people walking around to the sound of music. Instead, I`m writing about a sea of panicked people running around to the sound of screams, cries, police cars and ambulances. Yesterday my Barcelona suffered a brutal, coward terrorist attack at Las Ramblas, and everything changed. This is not what I had in mind…

I knew that this risk existed but honestly, I never though this would really happen here…

BARCELONA TERRORIST ATTACK, the day after

One of the streets leading to the city centre, blocked by the police.

I was walking home when it happened. I live near the centre, but not actually in the centre so I was safe. Suddenly there was a lot of police cars and ambulances speeding by, the sirens filled up the air, along with the noise of helicopters. I knew something was wrong, I could feel it in my skin, but people around me didn`t seem to notice. They were talking and laughing as they passed by.

I got home, opened my computer and the – bad, shocking – news started hitting me. A crazy driver in a white van drove over a lot of people in the middle of the Ramblas, the most popular and touristic street of Barcelona. I know how de Ramblas get in the summer, you can hardly walk with so many people, I work there sometimes. I could have been there in that exact time if a tour I was booked for hadn`t got canceled.

It could have been me. It wasn`t me, but doesn`t matter. There were a lot of innocent people seriously injured, some deadly so. Barcelona, the happiest city of the world, was not all smiles now. It was tears, and fear. And anger…

I`m not going to describe how the night went, with all it`s details. The local newspapers like El Periódico, El País and La Vanguardia did a great job registering everything. I`m not sharing photos of blood and horror. I`m here to talk about how society reacted to that terrible event, and how I felt living through my first terrorist attack, so close to home. In my home.

Barcelona, city of peace

And old photo I took of the Harbour in Barcelona. A city as lively and peaceful as this photo…

When the last terrorist attacks of France and London happened and I saw my friends tagging themselves safe on Facebook, for a moment I imagined how it would be like if this ever happened to me, how would I feel. This though didn`t last more than 2 seconds. I always considered Barcelona a safe city; a friendly, happy one. This is not a city for wars or blood; it has been in the past, but not anymore. Barcelona is the city that everybody wants to visit and half of those who visited, want to stay and live here.

I had to go out to pick up my dog who was at the pet shop for a bath. The recommendation was for everyone not to leave their houses/places of work/safety spot until the police had everything clear and handled, but I could not just leave my dog there so I went out. At this moment there was a chase and a shooting happening in the middle of the city centre, but I wasn`t going that way so I hoped I would be safe. And what I saw on the street could have been even more shocking than what was happening: It was like nothing was happening! I want to believe that people still didn`t know about it, all the terror happening around Plaza Catalunya, but some did know and… No, they didn`t care. They were not there, they didn`t know any of the victims, so everything was ok. “Let me just keep enjoying my sangria, cause I`m here on holidays”…

Now don`t get me wrong, I`m glad you`re ok, and no one you know was injured, and I don`t believe that panicking is the way to go… But can`t people nowadays have a little more empathy towards the other human beings, the innocent ones caught up in this stupid action of evil and terror? Or is it that people are already getting used to it? I know that people day in terrorists attacks everyday, and most of them are not even reported on the media, but is this the kind of world we want to live in? Not for me… It was like seeing two parallel universes side by side. So weird, I still don`t know what to think about it…

All prayers with Barcelona during this brutal terrorist attack

Candles in the claustro of the Cathedral of Barcelona. It should`t matter if you`re religious or not (I`m not anymore), people should not kill other innocent people in the name of God…

The good thing about this was that the people here, once more, during the hours after the terrorist attack at the Ramblas and through the night, once again proved why Barcelona is one of the best cities in the world. Many people  got stuck in the roads leading out/inside Barcelona and had to spent the night in their cars, because of police blocks as they were searching for the terrorists. So the neighbours and some other civilians spend the night bringing food and water to those patiently waiting until they could come back to their loved ones. No angry horns, no swearing. Everybody understood that this was a bigger thing.

The blood banks at the hospitals were at full capacity with so many people wanting to donate blood. People were offering their houses to who could come back to theirs because the perimeter of the attack was closed by the police and had been evacuated in the search for the perpetrators. Hotels were offering free rooms for those who could not go back to their hotels inside the affected area, for the reason above. Taxis and Cabify working for free since the metro and the trains were closed due to safety reasons. Barcelona is love, no matter what. 

The day after

I didn`t sleep much that night. When it seemed like things were getting calm, there was a second attack in a nearby city, Cambrils, in Tarragona. I was up until 3 am following the news in the internet, too angry and sad to be able to sleep.

I woke up the next morning with a surreal felling that maybe it was all I bad dream. But it wasn`t. So I got up and headed to Plaza Catalunya, where there would be a gathering of tribute and a minute of silence for the victims of this barbarian attack.

There was a false sense of normality and calm on the streets as I walked to the city center… Besides the streets near Plaza Catalunya, the traffic was normalised and people were walking around normally, tourists with Zara bags, stoping for selfies…
You think that people would be scared to go out and go back to where it all happened only a few hours after that terrible attack, with all that terror… But no.

When I got to Plaza Catalunya and Las Ramblas, there was a lot of people. More than 30.000 people came to pay our respects, to show solidarity. Humanity.

One minute of silence for the victims, when all we could hear was the wind in the trees. Not even the birds sang, like even the pigeons knew that something important, something serious, was happening there.

After that, an explosion… Of clapping. Then, hundreds of pigeons of Plaza Catalunya, as being ordered from some invisible coach, all start to fly… And suddenly one voice joins the other, and we were a chorus of people, with no rehearsal, all together in the same energy and vibe,  chanting: “No tenim por”. We`re not afraid.

Hundreds of people, thousands of nationalities, all united in once voice: NO TENIM POR.

NO TINC POR - TRIBUTE TO THE VICTIMS OF THE TERRORIST ATTACK IN BARCELONA

This morning, a minute of silence in tribute of the victims of the terrorist attack in Barcelona. I took this photo.

Religion, skin colour, age, beliefs, nothing mattered: We were all united in the same feeling. Love. Courage. Resilience. PEACE.

All my love and my best wishes to those who were directly affected by this. Violence is never the answer. The human being should know better by now, but sometimes I feel like we`re walking backwards. And all we can do against this is keep acting like we do, with integrity, spreading the right values of respect, friendship, solidarity, peace and love.

Barcelona will not bent. We will not let this change us. We will keep on living, and being good. Because I still believe that in the end, good always wins.

Barcelona, city of loveViews of my lovely Barcelona from the amusement park of Tibidabo. We will not let fear take over!

Please leave your support for the victims of Barcelona in the comments. Aggressive, hateful comments will be deleted. 

Showing 8 comments
  • Yoanne
    Reply

    Lovely words. I lived in Barcelona for a while, I remember arriving to the fiestas de Gracia. I have so many fantastic memories, what a wonderful, diverse city – was absolutely heartbroken to hear what happened. We must not let them divide us! Thanks for sharing and stay safe.

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      Thanks Yoanne!

      I think letting them break us is exactly what they want, and we won`t give them the pleasure. We`ll stay united, with all our diversity, our multicultural richness, the one that makes Barcelona such an interesting and friendly city for people from all over the world! We only have one enemy in common: Hate!

  • Vickiviaja
    Reply

    What happened there is so awful. I am also living in Barcelona but I am traveling in Asia these months so I wasn’t home. Due to time difference I woke to many messages by friends and family telling me what happened. Luckily at this point most of my friends have marked their selves already as save on facebook so I knew they were fine as everyone was probably asleep at this point. I cannot believe how people can do this to others. It’s just so horrific. I am happy about your words though. Thank you for sharing.

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      Thank you!
      I think what happened was a possibility, due to what has been happening in another cities in Europe, but Barcelona is such a friendly, open-minded city that it was hard to believe this would actually happen here… Until it did.
      We can pray and complain or we can try to be positive and look for the best in people. Because yes, there is a lot of bad people out there, but there`s still more good ones. And this is the time to show kindness and faith, to and in humanity.

      Thanks for commenting and I`m glad that your friends here are all ok!

  • Penny
    Reply

    What happened was really awful. A number of years earlier I was in Mumbai (Bombay) studying when the terrorists attacked the city. It was surreal. We were frightened and scared. All of us in a hostel that had locked itself down. The streets emptied because the attack was close by. Even as I think of those days now a cold sensation sinks to the pit of my stomach.

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      Hi Penny,

      It must have been a terrifying experience!
      I live near the Ramblas but not inside the area that was attacked so in my neighbourhood things were calm, but still, I walk through that are almost every day and to think that it could have been me or one of my friends is not a nice idea…!

  • Tania
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing such a pivotal moment in your life and the world. What a surreal experience.

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      Hi Tania,

      Yes, it was… Life is “back to normal” now in Barcelona, but every time I hear the sirens of the police cars and ambulances I get the chills…

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