Barcelona is not afraid. The people of the lively city in Catalonia, Spain, which was struck yesterday by the latest in a string of horrifying terror attacks that have rocked the European continent in recent years, insisted as much today.
Yesterday, two vehicular attacks in Barcelona and a nearby town killed at least 15 individuals and injured dozens more — the deadliest attack in Spain in more than a decade. The first attack took aim at the busy pedestrian street of Las Ramblas, the second in Cambrils, a seaside town. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Today, gathered in their city centre with the Spanish heads of state and government, the people of Barcelona observed a moment of silence for their loved ones lost to a senseless act of terror, and then broke into a single cry: “No tinc por!”— which means in Catalan “I am not afraid.” As Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy declared three days of mourning for the victims, he insisted that even as “Spaniards know the absurd and irrational pain that terrorism causes,” they also know that “terrorism can be beaten.” A U.K. national on holiday in Barcelona described the mood the following day as “defiant,” an attitude perhaps succinctly expressed in a note, sandwiched among the flowers of a memorial to the victims, which read, “Barcelona weeps but does not surrender.”
Barcelona, sadly, is not alone in having suffered at the hands of the Islamic State. Brussels, Paris, Nice, Manchester, London, and Berlin — these major European cities, centres of culture, business, education, tourism, and much more, have all been hit by terrible attacks in recent years.
Yet it speaks to the indomitable resilience of the human spirit that the people of Barcelona returned to Las Ramblas today. It calls to mind the thousands of fans who returned to the Manchester Arena to watched Ariana Grande sing in a benefit concert this summer, less than two weeks after the bombing in the same location. It calls to mind the people of Paris who went out and declared, “Je suis en terrasse” the day after the November 2015 attacks, which killed 130 people in the French capital. These actions had a common message: we will not be caged indoors by fear.
Meanwhile, we are fighting back. Cities and developers are finding ways to put in place anti-terror measures, and NATO formally joined the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State at the NATO meeting in May. We stand united in the fight against terrorism, we remember the ones who were brutally taken from us, and if we can remind ourselves that our values and way of life cannot be taken away, we will not be defeated.
William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Photo: Barcelona, seen from Tibidabo (2014). Photo courtesy of author.
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