This past August my family and I took a vacation to Spain for 10 days. The first 5 days we spent in Barcelona. The day we arrived to Barcelona was the day of the terrorist attack on La Rambla. Many people still ask about how we coped with our two young kids during such a horrific time in a foreign place, so I decided to write this post to address questions and curiosities.
To give you some background, we took an overnight flight from New York to Barcelona, arriving around 8:30 a.m. Our room at our hotel in the Gothic Quarter wasn’t ready so we explored around the area, eventually getting into our room around 11:00. We let our girls, ages 9 and 7, take a nap, and we did too actually. A couple hours later we were refreshed and ready to go out and discover beautiful Barcelona.
It was a sunny day, we were finally on vaca, and we were all excited. We started off walking around some more in the Gothic Quarter, slowly making our way to La Rambla. Honestly, on my last trip to Barcelona – albeit 20 years ago – I wasn’t too keen on La Rambla. But it’s on all the lists, and I figured, let’s just go so we can say we did it, and maybe it will be fun for the girls. And so we went. Just as I figured, there were lots of crowds and people, so we walked down it for about 5-10 minutes and then decided to leave and head to the water.
I was walking with my older daughter, and my husband was with my younger. At some point my younger daughter came running up to me and said “Mommy, we just saw a really fast police car”. When I asked my husband about it he said he had never seen a police car drive that fast in a city before. We kept walking and made our way back to the hotel so one of our daughters could use the restroom. It was then that we learned about the terrorist attack.
Having just been on La Rambla shortly beforehand, we were shook up a bit. We immediately turned on the news and gave our daughters the IPad to distract them. Then the texts started to pour in, as well as us contacting people, to let everyone know we were ok. It was hard to shield what was happening from our girls.
What did we tell our girls? Is the most popular question people ask. Well, at first we told them there had been a car explosion and some people were killed. But by the time we got up to the rooftop pool, where we wanted to get them busy with swimming, it was hard to hide. Everyone was up there talking about it. So, we told them there had been an attack, and unfortunately some people lost their lives. We told them they were not in danger, and the chances of that happening to us was so miniscule, and not to worry. And, honestly, they didn’t.
Somehow my girls took the news in stride. I’m not sure whether it’s due to the fact that they’ve seen books on the twin towers (kids books) and have that previous knowledge, but my fear of them being scared while we were in Spain did not come true. I like to think it’s because they felt safe with us as parents, but I think it simply had to do with the fact that they’re young and not as prone to worry. In writing this post, I asked my older daughter again if she was scared in Barcelona after the attack, and she said she wasn’t because we had already left La Rambla when it happened. Her answer was very matter of fact. There was no worry about whether or not it would happen again. Maybe that’s just how her mind thinks, or maybe it’s because she’s a kid. Or maybe a combination.
Going back to the rooftop, we hung out there for a while because the girls were swimming and having fun, and people were gathering up there to commiserate. It was a place of comfort for us – talking with other travelers and trying to get a handle on the situation – yet it was also eery. Our hotel was located across from the Barcelona Cathedral and square, a central location normally hopping with people, but up there on the roof looking out, there was not a soul or sound in site. It felt a lot like September 11th. Of course they’re two very different attacks, but that’s how it felt.
The night of the attack was the most worrisome for us. We had stayed up on the rooftop for so long – as the girls were happy and distracted – that by the time we changed and went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner, it was a 2 hour wait. No one wanted to leave the hotel. But we had to get our girls food. So we asked reception if it was ok to go out in the streets to a restaurant, and they said absolutely yes. But how did they know? Was all I could think. We wound up going out.
Walking around the streets of Barcelona with our two girls that night was nerve-wracking, for me (my husband on the other hand wasn’t nervous). No one knew the scope of this attack, and whether or not another one was coming. And here we had our girls out and about at night. Once we got to the restaurant, however, I felt much better. There were plenty of people in our same shoes, the restaurants that were open seemed to be busy, and we came across other Americans and shared stories.
The next morning we had tickets to the Sagrada Familia, and things were still uncertain in the city. The hotel was unsure if it was opening its doors or not, so we decided to just hop in a taxi and go and see for ourselves. It was definitely open. Swarms of tourists were everywhere, just as it would be on a regular day. We continued with our itinerary that day, which included the church and Park Guell, and before we knew it, things had started to normalize again.
Barcelona bounced back quickly, and so did we. What had been an anxious night before turned into us wanting to explore more and more of this amazing city. We had the absolute best trip to Barcelona, and while my heart goes out to the victims, we continued on with our trip with gusto.
They say you can’t let terrorism prevent you from traveling. While I believe that now more than ever, I do understand why people are nervous to go to certain destinations, especially with kids. We are our children’s protectors, and it is our responsibility to keep them safe. But we can only do so much..we live in New York and were just in the city the day before the recent terrorist attempt in Times Square. At a certain point we have to let faith play its course and experience all the world has to offer. If anything, our time in Barcelona let us learn to embrace just that.
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