I usually do not like to talk about politics. That and football are the best topics to end up angry at someone. Because of that, I rarely do, but today, a few days only after the terrorist attack in Barcelona, I feel like I have to myself out there and tell you about my point of view and experience.
The terrorist attack in Barcelona
So… I am Catalan. I was raised in the most beautiful capital city in the world: Barcelona. And not only that, I grew up no more than fifteen minutes away from Les Rambles, the location of the attack. Les Rables are a very long street that links the center of the city to the statue of Colon, in front of the port. Walked every day by thousands of tourists and a few locals, they are one of the most touristic places in the city.
Last Thursday I was coming home from work, when a friend sent me message telling me that there had been a terrorist attack in Bercelona. Shocked, my first reaction was text all my family to make sure they were all ok, once confirmed, I started looking in more detail to what had happened: a van had run over dozens of people in les Ramblas following a zig-zag pattern (so it was no accident).
The day moved on, and little by little the information was starting to arrive. The attackers tried to skip town. Then there was another terrorist attack in Cambrils, fortunately controlled before it escalated. Everything was chaotic and all of us Catalans were mostly in shock for what had happened. It was sad, and terrible, and the whole city handed out a helping hand. Hundreds of people opened their houses to those without access to their hotels in las Rambles. Queues were formed at the hospitals of people waiting to donate blood. And teams of doctors and psychologists spontaneously gathered together to help in any possible way. The true face of Barcelona appeared.
The next day
The next day, a massive gathering of people near was assembled in Plaza Catalunya. People from different culture backgrounds, religions and politics, joined voices and condemned what this awful terrorist attack. It has a very hard punch but Barcelona stood up to it and showed how strong a town we are.
About the terrorist attack in Brussels
So yes, we have stablished that I am from Barcelona and deeply wound by what happened last Thursday. What you may not know either is that I have lived in Belgium for the past four years. Or that I was in the airport the day it was bombed.
On March 22nd of last year, I was meeting my mother (who was coming from Barcelona) in Brussels Airport and we were going to get a plane together to New York. Back then, our plane was leaving at 9.30 in the morning, so I planned my train trip to be at the airport at ten to eight. I remember that I had to change trains a bit after 7.30 in Leuven and then take the next train for about 15 minutes to the airport. That day, I was carrying a very big bag and the train going to the airport had been renamed and I missed it. And that saved my life.
If I would have taken that train, I would have been at the desks of Brussels airlines at 8am: the exact time and location of the explosion.
I was exactly three minutes away from the airport this morning when the train stopped and they told us that two bombs had exploded in the departure's hall. They then deviated our trains back to the city, right when the news of several metro station being bombed started to arrive. It doesn't matter what people believe, it doesn't matter the reasons, killing innocent people is NEVER the answer. For all fellow travelers gone today, my best thoughts, and for the families left behind, my biggest condolences #jesuisbruxelles #brussels #itisnottheanswer
Living through the terrorist attack in Brussels Airport
A bit before 8, I took the following train to the Airport. We were underneath it when the train stopped for more than 30 minutes. I didn’t know what had happened, I was mostly worried about missing my flight. And then they did an announcement via the intercom… in Dutch. I was unable to understand a thing, so I kindly asked a guy in the train what they were saying: A bomb had exploded Brussels Airport.
I had no idea if my mother was already at the airport, or where on the airport had this happened. My first instinct was call my father and tell him exactly what was going on. I remember also asking him to check her flight status. Once he confirmed me that her flight was still in the air I allowed myself to breathe again. I was a very hard moment. And for my mother the case was even worse, according to what she knew, I was supposed to be at the airport at that exact time, and she had no way to know whether I was safe and ok.
Finally, the train started moving. We were directed to Brussels North, one of the biggest train stations in the capital (the Eurostar train leaves from here, for example). It was clear that what had happened at the airport was a terrorist attack, and I couldn’t help hear a voice in my head telling me to leave that train station because it was going to be next. Finally I managed to get hold of my mother. They had changed the destination and they landed in the tiny Charleroi (cheap flights airport located south of Brussels). And then I went picking her up.
We were halfway there when new news arrived: the metro of the capital had been bombed too. I remember that it was then when I realized what had really happened that day, the terror, the luck, the deaths… And I started crying. That was all I could do, I spent half the trip to the airport sobbing uncontrollably halfway scared and halfway thankful for being alive.
Two weeks after the terrorist attack, I had scheduled a flight back to Barcelona to spend some days with my family. The airport was still closed then and we left from Charleroi. The first time I had to pass by (the still under construction) Brussels Airport was a month later, when I was heading to Athens. I really hated the feeling I had when I set foot there. And today, after more than a dozen trips from that same airport after the bombing, I still get the same weird feeling in my stomach.
On travel and fear
That experience was probably one of the worst of my life, but unfortunately it was soon topped by the death a very close person to me. A very simple accident that could happen to anyone walking down a street, and he was gone.
These two experiences made me realize something, in this life, anything can happen. You can miss a train and safe your life. Or you can trip on a rock on the street and die twelve hours later. We have the opportunity to decide how we live our life. These terrorist attacks are meant to scare people, to induce fear and hate. Do not let them, these people are simply a small group who doesn’t represent any country or culture, and if they manage to make you rethink the way you live your life, they have already won. Live a life you are proud of and do not let fear rule your decisions on travel or any other aspect. Anything can happen and at least you will know that you have lived your life to its fullest.