“There was an attempt.
In Plaza Catalunya.
A moment ago.
You’re at home, right?”
I was at home, working quietly on my computer. Unbeknown to me that only 20 minutes away, where we had been the evening before, terror was being raised. I remember the hundreds of people walking only a block away from where the van drove up through the wide pedestrian avenue in Las Ramblas. Killing 14 people. Injuring over 100.
I felt strange looking out my window, watching kids play when there was such a terrible thing happening not so far away. We spent the night following updates, watching the number of casualties rise, seeing the confirmation that it was an act of terrorism being claimed by the Islamic radicals.
When I heard that they were joining at Plaza Catalunya at 12h the next day, for a minute of silence, I knew I had to go.
As I walked toward Plaza Catalunya, a strangely quiet street was occupied by workers standing outside silently in groups, ready to take their minute of silence. 130,000 people paying their respects.
At Plaza Catalyuna the streets were filled with people, police, and a feeling of peace as everyone looked forward, towards the crowds. I moved closer and started to hear a wave of clapping, it would start in the main square and find itself to where I was standing. I didn’t really know who we were clapping for. For everyone there I guess, for the police, for the victims, for the bravery of every person who had come to stand where people had been run down and murdered less than 24 hours ago.
The police stood by with solemn faces, awake, aware. As a fight seemed to break out in the crowd in the distance 10 police appeared from nowhere to settle the situation, as someone yelled out beside me: “Hoy es un día de Paz!” Today is a day of peace.
The crowd began to move, I watched as streams of people started making their way to Las Ramblas. The chanting and clapping continued. I followed. I listened as people chanted in Catalan, “No Tinc Por!” I’m not afraid.
People held signs saying they were not afraid. People held roses in the air.
And most people walked silently weeping, as I was.
The flow of people down Las Ramblas seemed endless, thousands of people paying their respects and sending their message. They will claim back their public space, their freedom. They will not surrender to fear.
A mother and daughter placed two red roses on the ground, to replace the wounded lifeless bodies that had lay there the afternoon before. Tears flowed, and a circle formed around the roses. People clapped. The mother called out: “Gracias todos por su apoyo en Las Ramblas.” Thank you, everyone, for your support here in Las Ramblas. Her voice broke a little but she showed her strength in being there, aided by the crowds of people who placed flowers with the roses, who hugged each other, and shared tears as unfamiliar faces touched.
As I reached the point where all the candles were being lit, I watched as people cried and hunched in a circle in the hot sun where the van had ended up, where dead bodies had been.
A group of police started pushing me aside. An array of bodyguards made room for an important group leaving the circle. A woman stopped, a man with a long dark beard and a light blue turban had called to her with tears in his eyes. His sons stood at his side with their own colourful head wraps and their heads bowed. The father was carrying a weight too heavy for his shoulders. He seemed to apologise to the women, who in turn kissed his cheeks, and hugged all three of the men, and went on with her day. The city resumes.
Unity of the people, the sadness of loss, a lot of love to the victims and their families – but not fear.
We are not afraid.