Crowds returning to Las Ramblas subdued and pensive
By Albert Stumm
BARCELONA, Spain — Tourists and Barcelona residents tentatively returned to Las Ramblas on Friday morning for a subdued stroll down the leafy boulevard, a day after a van attack filled it with fear and bloodshed.
Dozens of armed police officers in blue and neon-yellow uniforms were stationed near Placa de Catalunya and the street was still closed to vehicles, but all other signs of the previous day’s terror had been cleared away.
Newsstands were open selling papers and souvenirs, and by midmorning, some ice cream shops were starting to lift their gates. Notably still closed were the iconic flower stalls near where the van came to a halt after killing at least 13 and injuring 100. And metal gates covered the entrance to La Boqueria, the expansive market that is one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions.
Enrique Camprubi, a city resident for 40 years who walks down Las Ramblas nearly every day, said besides the police, the scene didn’t appear very changed.
“We don’t have to be afraid,” said Camprubi, who volunteers at a nearby center named after Mother Theresa. “And we aren’t afraid because that’s what they want, the Islamic State, they want to scare us so that we stay at home. That is last thing we’re going to do.”
The number of pedestrians was about the same as a regular summer morning, but the crowd was much quieter than usual. Many somberly walked in silence, staring down at the distinctive curved paving stones.
A family from New York said outside La Boqueria that they were undeterred when they boarded a plane the previous evening after hearing about the attack.
“We all feel fine, right?” Tara Lanza said as the whole family exchanged reassuring looks.
“It’s sad,” said her husband, John Lanza. “You can tell it’s obviously quieter than it usually is, but I think people are trying to get on with their lives.”
The calm of the morning faded away, somewhat, when thousands of people who had gathered for a minute of silence in the square started making their way down Las Ramblas, continuing to chant and clap in unison as they headed toward the seashore. The ice cream shops closed again.
A small memorial of flowers was placed at a fountain that is a common gathering-spot for FC Barcelona fans, as the crowds dispersed and the quiet returned.
Tour guide Gaston Magrinat, an American who came to Barcelona in 1999, said he couldn’t help thinking that he or his kids could have been among the victims.
“Thinking how often I come down this avenue? Not just for work but also with family,” he said. “It’s a recreational area as well. You come with the kids and get ice cream and stuff like that. It could have easily been me.”