Barcelona, now and forever, aka “You can’t kill love”

For many of us, Barcelona is love. It’s a city that gets into your soul in a way that few cities can. It’s that peculiar blue sky, it’s sitting at a shady cafe over a four-hour lunch, talking with someone you just met in real life four hours before. It’s quiet markets and nocturnal walks, when all but the most committed drunken tourists have turned in for the night.

It is a city of unspeakable beauty, a city I have visited so many times that when someone asks how many, the head tilts and the eyes roll up like, “Hmmm … let me think.”

When something terrible happens to someone that you love, your heart is rocked. You struggle to keep the tears from coming, yet they do. And do again. You feel helpless, you feel a bit angry at your own impotence, as if love could somehow prevent something bad from happening, as if Fate spreads a shield over the innocent, even as the world has proved to you countless times that it isn’t so.

Several people are dead and scores injured after a terrorist attack in Barcelona today. The assailants rammed a van into a crowd of people on the popular tourist spot La Rambla, near Plaça Catalunya. As usual with these things, it began with one Tweet on social media, one Tweet that made you hope, given how Barcelona commercial drivers fling their vehicles about, that it was some knucklehead. Even as you knew better, and you began to wonder. Then grim reality set in as the notifications and alerts, all to familiar at this point, served as real-life testimony to a horrible act.

When we lose people who are dear to us, we often have events where we focus on the joy, the things that made us happy. A person I follow on Twitter took to posting fantastic shots of the city from various spots — that typically blue sky, the buildings seemingly jammed together at crazy angles and concentrations, the energy that you can feel through the pictures and that gets into your heart if it’s open.

The first time I was in Barcelona it was to attend a match. I blew in for a weekend, then blew out. No time for the city. The next visit I made time. And the next I made even more time. I have stayed in apartments on Passeig de Gracia, gotten hopelessly lost, so lost that we said screw it and stopped for gelato and orientation. I have lost my car in Barcelona, so excited about a match that I parked and in a rush, promptly forgot where I parked, being forced to walk around for about two hours in one of Those Barcelona rain storms. The trams made a wake as they sloshed past.

I have discovered great tapas places, had wonderful conversations, discovered the delights of missing the last Metro but not caring because such a great time was had. I was taken on a tour of the city by a lifelong resident and his family, got caganers at the Fira de Santa Llucia. Our gracious host, which whom we spent an entire day, capped it off by having us drink from the Font de Canaletes, telling us of the legend that if you drink, you will return.

He was right. That fountain isn’t far from the site of the assault, not far from anything, including millions of broken hearts.

You can’t destroy love. You can’t destroy a city, especially a city like Barcelona, a city that thrums with life in a way that few cities can, in a way that is impossible to explain unless you have been there and succumbed to its charms. Familiar names of people you know from Barcelona pop up on Twitter, and with each one you breathe a sigh of relief even as your soul aches for what has happened, for the reality that people who started the day planning ordinary things, maybe a special event, planning anything other than dying, had their plans and their lives sundered by an act intended to send a message.

And then the world responds, thousands of individual people respond and the message sent in return is clear: You can’t kill love. You can’t damage it, or sully it with vileness. Love is eternal. In a world that daily makes us want to hug someone and cry, we will do that this time as well, then go on loving, and helping. Not only because this is the simplest response, but that all we can do.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

17 Comments

  1. Jtoolz
    August 17, 2017

    So tragic.. How the human heart can conceive such evil beats me hollow.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

  2. ciaran
    August 17, 2017

    I love the city, always will. I’ve been there a few times and it really is a magical place. Much love to anyone affected.

  3. Davour
    August 17, 2017

    Thank you Kxevin. I wish I were surprised, I really do. But still no less saddened. It is a great city, where I have walked dark alleys without fear, walked drunk and happy down Las Ramblas on my first visit (then avoiding it on later visits, after discovering the richness of the city’s numerous faces), have friends there, have written about it, have enjoyed it immensely. Love, yes. Warmest thoughts to people in Barca, especially anyone affected.

  4. RT
    August 17, 2017

    You can’t destroy love, well said Kxevin and thanks for this. Only been to Barcelona once but I loved it and hope to go back soon. It thrums with life, as you said, it truly is a beautiful place. As a Londoner, I’m all too familiar with that sickening feeling of helplessness when a city you love is attacked. Thoughts to everyone affected. <3

  5. Jim
    August 17, 2017

    Spot on, Kxevin. So many similar memories, especially of feeling completely at home there from our first visit. On a trip from there to Montserrat we sat on the train opposite a Spanish couple , I tried to converse in my Spanish which is poor but passable ( Catalan is beyond me I’m afraid, ) they complimented me on it genuinely, then spoke to us in perfect English the rest of the journey. We visited the monastery together ( although I baulked at the rocket ship to the very top ! ) and still occasionally email each other.

    Lovely city and, for me, lovely people. We’ve been thinking of going back next spring, probably to see Iniesta for the last time, although my wife is a bit edgy about the demos against tourists atm.

    If anyone here lives there and fancies meeting up with a cranky aged Scot love to do so. I’ve often thought it would be good for the regular BFBers to meet up at some point in Barcelona and take in a match. Mind you, easy for me to say that with a short flight !

    Thinking about the city and its people tonight . . .

  6. PPos
    August 17, 2017

    Man, what happened today was just awful and inhumane. This trend of vehicles as weapons is horrifying. Something like this really makes you realize how quick life can take a turn. My thoughts are with all of the people of the city tonight. The city of Barcelona is wounded but will come back roaring.

    • August 18, 2017

      It is definitely horrible my friend.
      But even horrible was when 80 plus children were lured to a terrorist car bomb, by promise of food and 80 children n 13 women were killed in Rashideen, Syria, while their mothers watched from a bus! The worst was the downplaying of this massacre by western media (even said these children were supporters of Syrian Govt) when they realised the terrorists belonged to their own ”rebel” groups.

      I have been to Barcelona only once and I loved it and am longing to go back.

      I just want to say that am equally concerned about a terrorist attack, even if it happens in Paris or Damascus or Ankara or Karachi. or a bombing in Yemen.

      Our body can feel a pain on the shoulders or legs, but the real cause of the pain could be a cervical or lumbar disc.
      Until the whole world sit together, small and big forgetting their class and hierarchy, and find ways to treat the cause, am afraid to say, we will all continue to suffer lots more of such pain. I don’t see any ends, am sorry.

      • hereiam
        August 18, 2017

        First, I don’t think there’s any downplaying. Google Aleppo bus bombing and you will see plenty from western media, none of which is trying to downplay the significant of the incidence.
        Second, I think it is neither appropriate nor relevant to discuss Syrian politics in an article about a terror attack in Barcelona.
        You are welcomed to mourn the dead and share the griefs, but please bring the politics elsewhere.

  7. hereiam
    August 17, 2017

    Fuck terror.
    They can kill some of us but they will never kill our spirit.
    We will prevail.

  8. ChaoticReaper
    August 17, 2017

    Cillessen
    Semedo – Marlon – Umtiti – Alba
    Roberto – Busquets – Alena
    Messi – Deolofeu – Denis

    Based on form, I want to try this lineup. I think Deolofeu would make a good target man.

    • PPos
      August 17, 2017

      He needs to start shooting first. He should have shot on target against RM but choked bad.

      • PPos
        August 17, 2017

        I honestly think we might have to back to the false 9 Messi while Suarez is out. He did score tremendous amount of goals in that position back in the day, but then again, he’s no longer 25.

        • hereiam
          August 18, 2017

          False 9 Messi means you have to bring the ball into the final third with other players, and Messi arriving late to an already confused defense to maximize his impact.
          In the Super cup Classic first half, we can’t even get the ball past the middle of the pitch.
          How can Messi play as a false 9 with such an abject failure as his team?

  9. georgjorge
    August 18, 2017

    Amen, Kxevin. I want to believe what you write. I want to believe that things like love and solidarity are going to be bigger than hatred and fear. With respect to my own country, I’m not so sure about it, but those are inspiring words. Thanks a lot.

    I just don’t know how someone can go to a city like Barcelona, take a good look around and think to himself ‘Yes, that’s a good city for driving a van into a crowd of people’.

    • hereiam
      August 18, 2017

      It’s just like that: fucked up people lashing out at complete strangers because of their own problems and failed ideology.
      There will always be people like that in the world.
      That’s why it is important to treat them exactly like the failures and society rejects they are and be strong.
      We will forever be who we are and cherish our values, and we should not let our faith in humanity waiver because of those scumbags.

  10. Víctor
    August 18, 2017

    My support for everyone in Barcelona. Hope the city recovers fast from this tragedy. Criminals and terrorists like these do not deserve a place in this world.

  11. August 18, 2017

    I generally try to avoid the Ramblas because, frankly, places that are filled with tourists annoy the hell out of me.

    Whenever I cross the Ramblas I always keep an eye out just in case something is off. The boulevard has always seemed extremely vulnerable and I’m sad to be finally proven right.

    Too many attacks in Europe (and even more in the Middle East). I wish peace were possible, I truly do.

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