Friday, 18 August 2017

A Doughnut Saved My Life

July was a lucky month for Barcelona. A train crash at Estació de França resulted in many injuries but no fatalities, and a fire at Tomorrowland festival two days later ended the festivities early for 22,000 revellers, but had no serious consequences.

However, in August, our luck ran out.

I'd arranged to meet friends who live just off La Rambla. As usual, we were running late. As we stepped off the train at Catalunya metro station and headed towards the exit, my eye was caught by the Dunkin' Donuts stand at the end of the platform. I don't like doughnuts much, but I've always thought Boston Cream sounds delicious and they had them right there on the top shelf. Dom picked up a pot of chopped fruit and we waited to pay. There were two people in front of us, one a metro worker whose chat with the women at the till made our wait longer and I considered leaving it, but as Dom had asked for fruit while confronted with an entire stand of sugary, gooey cakes, I decided to stick it out. Eventually, we paid and left.

As we walked towards the stairs to exit the station at the top of La Rambla, a metro security guard came running down, his face a picture of terror, screaming at everyone to get back inside. We ran for the barriers, but I didn't want to let go of Dom's hand to get my metro ticket from my bag. I shouted at them to open the gates and after 5 seconds that felt like an hour, they did. We stumbled back onto the platform and tried to figure out what was going on, my hands trembling so badly that I looked like I was trying to shake water from them. Dom asked why I was shaking so I told him I was a bit cold. Luckily, he didn't notice the incongruity of me saying I was cold while sweating in a boiling hot station.

My friend who I'd been about to meet called me saying that there had been some sort of explosion and that they'd taken refuge in a shop. The call cut off, probably as the networks became overloaded, so we were left standing on the platform with no information for a while longer. I decided to get on a train going back towards home, but as we were waiting a train pulled in over the other side and the metro staff shouted that everybody should get on it. People ran towards the train and the driver announced that it would not stop at Liceu or Drassanes "for security reasons," but would continue to Parallel. 

That was the longest journey of my life. My friends, still trapped in the shop, messaged to say that a van had gone down La Rambla and people were dead. Of course, after Paris / Nice / London, my mind went straight to terrorism, and the last place I wanted to be was on a crowded metro with hundreds of strangers. 

We got off at Parallel and Dom spotted a bus that went right by our house. Once safely aboard, a glance at my phone confirmed that it was a terrorist attack. 

As it stands, the van driver is still free and two other suspects are in custody. Rumours are flying around about police shoot-outs at roadblocks on the way out of the city, helicopters are flying overhead, and the attack has been linked to a blast at a house in Tarragona this morning which was originally thought to be a gas explosion. 13 deaths have been confirmed and scores of people have been injured. Gràcia festival has been cancelled, at least for tonight, and right now my beautiful adopted city of colour and light feels shattered and broken.

Right now, people are scared - I know I am. I feel like I want to hide away, avoid crowded places, stay away from the tourist areas. But, for some unknown reason, today I fancied a doughnut enough that I queued for just long enough to not be in the path of a lunatic in a van killing people. Those few minutes were the difference between life and death, and I'll be damned if I'm going to live my life like they weren't.

This city has been to hell and back before, and still it's full of wonderful people who refuse to be ground down by extremists. I'll proudly stand with them.

Barcelona, t'estimo.

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jim.taylor said...

Hi there - I work at BBC Radio 5 live in the UK.
I'm glad you're safe - I wondered if you might be willing to speak to us about the experience, if you're feeling up to it?
You can email me at and we can take it from there.
Thanks very much.

Gillian Nightingale said...

Danni this post just brought me to tears. I am so sorry that you have had to experience this but so glad that you and your boy were lucky. I often wonder what I would do in this situ with the kids. I cannot imagine the fear you must have felt.
I think you and the people of Barcelona, London Manchester Paris and everywhere else that have suffered at the hands of these mad men are so so brave to not let fear get the better of you x here's hoping they catch the man who did this and help gets to those others who think that these sorts of attacks are ok x