During the late afternoon hours on August 17, 2017, Barcelona witnessed the deadliest terror attack to take place in recent memory. At approximately 5 p.m. local time, a van was driven into the crowds on the main street, Las Ramblas. The aftermath resulted in 15 people dead and more than 130 injured. As the driver escaped, the city remained on lockdown until Monday, August 21 when a shootout between police and the suspect resulted in the driver’s (identified as Younes Abouyaaqoub) death.
In the days following the attack, many marches and feelings of anti-hate, anti-fascism, and anti-terrorism were prevalent citywide. A rally consisting of more than 2500 Muslims took place on Thursday, August 24, where, not only this attack, but all attacks carried out in the name of Islam, were condemned. The largest rally took place on Saturday, August 26, where more than 500,000 people attended an anti-fascism march.
I saw the days following the attacks firsthand. I arrived in Barcelona on the 18th of August, not quite sure what to expect when I landed. Many of my friends and family asked me prior to boarding if I was scared, if I was sure if I still wanted to go, if I’d be alright. Never the type to scare easily, I assured them I’d be fine.
But I was not “fine,” my heart was broken and I was grieving. Barcelona was my home. My old apartment is a mere 600 feet from where the attacks occurred. Had these attacks taken place four years earlier, it’s entirely possible I could have been a victim. That’s the part that made everything real for me. Any one of my friends working on the Rambla could have been a victim, any one of them who lived right off the Rambla, as I once did.
After finally making my way to the city’s center, love and solidarity were on full display. Candlelight memorials, Anti-Isis signs, chants of “No tenim por”—Catalan for “We are not afraid”— were up and down the Rambla. The amount of love was beautiful and the show of solidarity absolutely powerful. Being amongst the crowds of people from all corners of the globe to show our respect and love, to show that we were there in spite of the hate that transpired, was one of the most inspiring things I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in.
All of us on the Rambla were grieving. All of our hearts were broken—not just for Barcelona, but for Berlin, Nice, London, New York City, a world that often seems like it’s too broken to fix. In the face of all the tragedy that seems to surround us in the world, we have always managed to bounce back. We rise from the ashes. We become stronger. But never do we become afraid.