Dear Barcelona, and the rest of Spain as well,
This past summer, I visited you.
I stayed in Barcelona for three and a half days, the first place I ever walked that was outside of my country, and I lived in southern Spain for two additional weeks. You are my home away from home, a country that opened its arms to me and welcomed me in as a visitor, a student and a lover of all things Spanish.
This past summer, I stood in La Plaza de Catalunya. We fed the pigeons and laughed at the sheer numbers of them, walked through the center and down around the surrounding streets, admiring the statues and architecture around us.
This past summer, we walked down Las Ramblas, gaping at the beautiful buildings and smiling at the curbside cafes. We drank zumos in la Boqueria, the huge market on this street, and our guide told us stories about the musuems and theatres on this road.
This past summer, we explored Barcelona on our own and met Spain here as we slowly learned to understand Spanish as quickly as we understand English, squinting at maps to find ATMs, waiting for the walk signals on the crosswalks and cheering on Spain in the U21 soccer championships as we shared tapas for dinner.
This past summer, we stayed five blocks over from where, on August 17th, 2017, a huge terrorist attack occurred. We passed through this Plaza twice a day. And today, at least thirteen people died and almost a hundred were injured in this exact place.
My heart is broken for everyone in Barcelona, in Spain and everywhere. Perhaps it is selfish of me, since I do see the headlines daily of people dying from terrorism globally. Daily, I stop and say a prayer for them and their families and for my world in general, ending it with my usual words: "God, please give us the peace to celebrate our differences instead of killing each other over them."
But today, selfish though it may be, I actually have been to the place that was attacked. I have seen it. It was welcomed me, and I have called this country home, and I have international friends who live in this city and this country, and I have sat and walked around the place where the attack happened. I am so lucky that my country is not often hit with such massive attacks, such devastating violence. And so, this is the attack that hurts - that which occurred seven thousand miles away, in Barcelona.
I still believe, though. I still believe that people will one day live in peace, where the only frustrations are over the fact that there aren't enough seats on your bus for you and your heavy briefcase, that everyone will walk together down Las Ramblas and drink an avocado-coconut milk zumo together and listen to understand each other. I still believe that people will visit each other's countries not to destroy and to wreck havoc but to experience other cultures, to try other foods and to walk along other shores.
I still believe that one day we can have peace. One day we will come together in love and harmony, that we can work together to better our world and to appreciate the differences between each other. That one day we will all be welcoming of our brothers and sisters in humanity, that we will be free of terrorism and the hateful mindsets that lead us to kill each other.
I pray for you, Barcelona. I pray for the rest of Spain. And I pray for the entire world, and for every individual within it.