Yesterday, a big white van driven by a young disturbed man ripped through a crowd of innocent people on Barcelona’s iconic thoroughfare, La Rambla. Of the 14 dead five were children. The injured, more than 100 of them, hailed from 35 different countries. Many were there for pleasure, strolling the “only street” that the late Spanish poet Federico García Lorca “wished would never end”; instead they found pain and horror.
The victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time on a sad day in a twisted world. Their pain is our pain, for their fate could just as easily have been ours.
As a long-time Barcelona resident, I hope the city I love can find the resolve to bounce back. Its residents are resilient and I’m sure they will provide refuge and warmth to those who need it.
As shocking, senseless and brutal as yesterday’s attack was, it did not come out of the blue. As one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, Barcelona has been near the top of the list of prime terrorist targets for years. Catalonia has also served as an important operational base for previous attacks in Europe. The terrorists knew that a well orchestrated strike against one of the city’s iconic symbols would have the potential to disrupt its vital tourist industry — an industry that has grown so big, so fast that it recently became the biggest cause for concern among local residents.
Now, the people of Barcelona and Catalonia have a more immediate concern: guarding against future attacks from an enemy that is as ruthless as it is resourceful — and what’s more, against a backdrop of heightened political uncertainty as Catalonia prepares for a referendum on national independence that is forbidden by the central government in Madrid.
As always happens after a terrorist attack, there will be a temptation among both leaders and the led to seek revenge and hit out blindly, just as the French government did against the people of Syria after its recent wave of terrorist attacks. One can only hope that the urge can be resisted, for this spiral of indiscriminate violence and hatred, whose primary victims have been the people of the Middle East, must end at some point.