Estela Fernandez

Interviewed September 16, 2017 for Catalunya Barcelona docuseries.

Well, on August 17th, the day of the attacks in Barcelona, we decided to go out of Barcelona, to Vallvidrera.

We went there by train, with the Catalan trains, and came back to Catalunya square a few minutes before the attack.

We had no clue, like nobody did, of what was about to happen.

We headed home. We live in Diagonal [avenue], so we headed west and stopped to have a coffee in ‘La Rambla’.

Not in ‘Les Rambles’, in ‘La Rambla’. It’s a street that is further west from Catalunya square.

While we were having a cup of coffe, I thought I heard cries from afar.

I mentioned it to my husband and he made a joke, and I didn’t think any more about it.

But when we arrived home, while we were waiting for the elevator, a neighbor comes and says, “Hey, have you heard?” and I say “Have we heard what?”

She says, “Did you hear there’s been an attack on ‘La Rambla’?” and we said, “But we were just there! We didn’t see a thing!”

And she says, “well, it’s not clear whether it is a terrorist attack or what has actually happened.”

Then, we took the elevator, got home and the first thing we did was take the iPad and check the news, find out what was going on.

It all became clear quick, we realized it had been indeed a terrorist attack.

Because the way they had driven the vehicle, it was quite clear that it was done on purpose to kill people.

I spent all the hours afterwards stuck online, checking every five minutes the news to see if there was any additional clarification of what had happened, because on the beginning nobody knew who was behind these deeds, these attacks.

The polic didn’t know either.

We did what I suppose everyone did, logged on to Facebook to say we were fine, that nothing had happened to us. But we had been in ‘La Rambla’ minutes before the attack, which really scared me.

When we accessed Facebook to say we were fine, it came to my mind. Damn, how must my friends in Barcelona be?

I spent about another hour in Facebook checking how my friends were, what had they published, whether they were or not okay.

Especially my family, my sister, who also lives in the center of Barcelona, quite close to ‘la Rambla’.

The following hours were really… I was quite worried, because my sister was around Barcelona and the man who had driven the van was roaming around Barcelona, nobody knew where he was.

There’s the concern that there’s a terrorist on the loose in Barcelona, free, not accounted for, and my sister is also in Barcelona, trying to reach the bar where her flatmate was. She was stuck in a bar she worked at in ‘la Rambla’ and they didn’t let her come out.

They didn’t let her out until it was half past eleven p.m. and my sister called saying, “Listen, maybe we have to go to your place to sleep because they won’t let us go home”. They live in Raval, and all of Raval was cordoned off and nobody could get through.

I had this anguish, was so worried.

Let’s imagine that it’s the 2nd of October 2017. The Yes has won because since the referendum wasn’t legal, only those in favor of independence went to vote. Those who are not in favor of independence, generally speaking, didn’t go to vote because they don’t feel represented.

Then, all this is causing the optical illusion that independentism is a much bigger majority than it actually is.

I think that the Spanish government, which has had a poor actuation and has been acting poorly for many years, will not want to acknowledge the results of the referendum.

It’s an illegal referendum, it was an illegal referendum and it will be an illegal referendum.

I think that then, the results won’t affect the unity of Spain.

When I read the news, both the local and international press, we all had the feeling that everything was hazy.

That nobody really knew what was happening, what had happened, who was behind the attacks.

First they said it was a boy called Driss Oukabir. Then they realized that it was his brother. Then that it wasn’t his brother, but yet another boy.

It’s not like this is the journalists fault, they covered the topic as the police was discovering what had happened.

Later there’s more confusion because some articles state that the imam of Ripoll, Es Satty, is dead while others don’t say so.

So, is this man dead or not?

I don’t know yet.

Many articles state that he is, but others claim that he isn’t.

It’s all a bit confusing.

Now we do know what happened. The terrorists were killed, but I don’t think that’s something good either.

The terrorists killed lots of people and we killed them.

Isn’t it the same? It isn’t the same, but they could have shot them on an arm or a leg and take them to prison.

Take them to prison so that they would be there, because these kills don’t seem very justified to me just because they come from the State institution. I don’t know.

It should be discussed too, I think.

The reaction of politicians around the world is different.

There’s a currents, for example with politicians like Donald Trump or some countries in the European Union, that have become very islamophobe, very racist, and have reacted by complicating the arrival of immigrants in their countries.

I think that Spain didn’t have this reaction.I think that Spain has been very insistent in that we didn’t fall in this spiral of islamophobia and racism.

I think that the immigration laws are the same and that people, well, there have been actually reactions from people that have been islamophobic, but you can’t avoid that because there’s all sorts of people everywhere.

Then, there will be those who interpret it as now all Muslims are evil, just as there will be people who sees it as the jihadists being and exception to Islam, which is what I think.

I think that, in that sense, Spain has done a good job.

There’s been a good organization to catch the person that committed the attacks. It took them a few days, but the finally did it.

And that’s it, the immigration laws didn’t change or anything which is great, I think.

Then there’s the politicized reaction to what happened. For example, I saw how Mariano Rajoy and all the politicians close to him wanted to use the attack to say, “Now we are together, we stand together against the enemy, the common foe”.

But the Catalans didn’t follow that line. They did appear in acts together with Mariano Rajoy, but after a day or to Puigdemont, the president of the Generalitat, made it quite clear that these attacks didn’t mean that suddenly we’re all together now.

That was made quite clear.

Then all the demonstrations, well, not all of them, but especially the one with all the politicians and the king, was a very politicized demonstration, that’s why I didn’t go.

What are you asking for? You can’t ask terrorists to stop killing with a demonstration.

It was, in a way, a process to deal with this pain we have, this sorrow. Maybe it did have a cathartic effect on some people, but I think it was shameful that it was politicized the way it was.