So I’m assuming you’ve heard the news about Barcelona by now. I’m a few days ahead with my posts, so you wouldn’t know it by reading this blog, but I’ve been in Barcelona for the last few days.
And I was right in the area where it went down when it went down.
I was in a big department store called Corte Engles in a hugely popular area called Plaça de Catalunya, and I was heading out onto the street when everyone started running and screaming. This was a huge crowd — maybe like a hundred people or so — and this wasn’t just “hey, is something happening?” screaming. They were the screams of pure terror.
I had no idea what was going on, but obviously I ran, because holy shit. Hopefully you’ve never been in a crowd that’s screaming bloody murder and running for their lives, because let me tell you: it is terrifying. It might have been the scariest moment of my life.
The crowd flooded into the department store. After a couple of minutes, the security gates were shuttered and the place was locked down. No one seemed to know what was going on; it hadn’t even hit the news yet. I texted a few friends and relatives to let them know I was okay, and I could barely even type — my hands were shaking so much from the adrenaline.
The square outside, normally packed with hundreds of people, was now eerily empty, save for the police and their cars.
We eventually learned that some stupid fucking idiot drove a van into a crowd, killing and injuring dozens.
About an hour later they let us out; we were escorted to a police barricade where hundreds of concerned onlookers and journalists were congregating.
My cousin is actually in Barcelona, and by sheer horrible luck was in the same area, on the other side of the square. We couldn’t get to each other at this point, but we arranged to meet at her apartment, which was about ten minutes away.
As I was heading there, the sidewalks were packed and the roads almost empty, save for the occasional cop car or motorcycle screaming by. My Google map was updated with a big red circle labeled “terrorist attack.” It was marking the exact spot I had just come from.
I’m sorry to be swearing so much in this post; I’m not a big swearer, but non-profanity just doesn’t seem right in this situation. Holy fucking shit.
I got to my cousin’s place and we hung out there for a while. I had a knot in my stomach for hours. For most of the evening, we could hear sirens outside and helicopters overhead. We kept anxiously checking Twitter and various news sites to see what was going on. Eventually, things seemed to calm down and I headed back to my Airbnb on the outskirts of the city, promising to text my cousin as soon as I got there. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be staying in the suburbs. It sounds stupid, but I felt uneasy in the city.
I’m obviously not the only one who feels that way; near the subway station around my Airbnb, there’s a main road that heads out of the city. It was bumper to bumper. This was around 10:00 PM. It was like something out of a movie.
I have one more day here before I fly out, and I don’t even know that I have it in me to head back into the city tomorrow. I might just hang out around the Airbnb.
I wish I could say that the terrorists have failed; that they haven’t scared me. But that’s not true. I’m rattled. I’m more than rattled.
I wasn’t exactly where it happened. I was nearby, but (thankfully) I was never in immediate danger. I didn’t have to witness the grizzly aftermath. But being that close to it is hugely unsettling.
To be honest, there’s a part of me that’s tempted to cancel the rest of my Europe plans and head straight to Asia.
Hey, terrorists, here’s an idea: why don’t you stop being stupid jerks?
When I got back home, I went to the Spanish equivalent of a greasy spoon near the apartment and got a plate of fries, bacon, and eggs. Because after a day like that, you need a big greasy plate of comfort food and a beer to wash it down.
Anyway, back to silly food posts starting tomorrow.