About travel and the terrorist attack in Barcelona

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.

After canceling my trip to NYC, changing my new flights and departing from another airport… Finally on my way to the beautiful Barcelona!

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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.

So, so you know where this was taken? #hiddenlocation

Una publicación compartida de The Solivagant Soul (@thesolivagantsoul) el

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.

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.

And later…

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.

About the terrorist attack in Barcelona and fear of travelling | The solivagant soul

14 Comments

  1. These terrorist attacks are so horrible and unfortunate, but I agree, you can’t let that scare you into not visiting a place. It’s so unlikely you’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and living in fear is definitely not a happy way to live. Hopefully down the line things will be done to improve the lives of the people that feel that they need to commit such horrible acts as well, so that such thoughts no longer cross their mind!

    • thesolivagantsoul@gmail.com

      That is exactly my point, live a full life and enjoy the moment. Don’t let anyone scare you from what you want to do, otherwise, they will have succeeded. Thank you for passing by Mike!

  2. So true, we cannot and must not live in fear. Be aware and prepared, although paranoid. We owe it to our own life purpose to stay resilient and courageous.

    • thesolivagantsoul@gmail.com

      Exactly, live a life in which you are true to yourself and even if you are unlucky to find yourself in the middle of an attack, you will know that you have had a life you can be proud of.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I have too many friends and family that have been too close to so many of these incidents ( I myself was even in Istanbul last year during the airport attack and still flew out the next day, I am still baffled that the airport was open, but that is another story).
    But your conclusion is the truth. We must keep on traveling and keeping an open heart to all people because if we don’t hate and fear win and that is not the answer to anything going on in this wide world of ours. <3 <3

    • thesolivagantsoul@gmail.com

      Tha’s shocking! Here the airport was closed for a few weeks actually (and during easter, it was a huge mess), and once it was open, the security measures were amazing. And I am happy that you share with me the feeling that not everyone should be considered by the same parameters. Fear is not the answer! Thanks for passing by Candiss =)

  4. Wow thats brave of you sharing you story! Its crazy that both the attacks happened in close proximity to you as well. I must say I am so happy that you aren’t letting it stop you love of traveling and not letting the fear get to you <3 x

  5. What a moving blog post. I am a Londoner and the recent attacks to our city were horrific and awful. It makes you think and your post has bought the recent European attacks much closer to home. I try to use these horrific events to remind me to live well, love lots and keep travelling. Thank you <3

  6. Wow! You have quite a story to share. Thanks for your transparency. I think events like these really put life into perspective. I love the way you reflected on not letting fear keep you from living life.

  7. Thank you for sharing this! I almost felt like crying when reading your account of this… I walked by a bomb explosion just 20 min later in my hometown, and still, 15 years after when I talk to my friends from my city, we remember who was were, and so many coincidences, missed buses and delays that caused people to come there late, and miss the explosion my minutes.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree, you can’t let fear dictate your life. If you do, than the terrorists win. Several members of my family try to dissuade me from traveling because of incidents just as these, but I’ll never stop. I’m happy that you’re safe!

  9. You are right, it makes me sad, that we cannot live in a world without terror and fear, but we make the best of it and don’t give terrorism a chance!

  10. OMG! This is terrible. But I’m super glad nothing happened to you.

    • thesolivagantsoul@gmail.com

      Thanks for passing by Caroline! Yes, it is aweful and terrible specially for the people who lost someone… It is specially sad because of the wave of fear that spreads…

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