Catalonia remembers victims of 2017 terror attack five years on

Commemorative event held on La Rambla boulevard, while psychological effects remain for many victims

Relatives of one of the fatal victims of the 2017 terror attack lay flowers on La Rambla boulevard (by Laura Fíguls/Pau Cortina)
Relatives of one of the fatal victims of the 2017 terror attack lay flowers on La Rambla boulevard (by Laura Fíguls/Pau Cortina) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

August 17, 2022 11:36 AM

Catalonia paid homage on Wednesday to the victims of the 2017 terror attack on La Rambla boulevard in Barcelona and the coastal town of Cambrils. 

A memorial act took place in the morning on La Rambla, where five years earlier, a van was driven down the central pedestrianized part of the boulevard, killing and injuring many. The commemoration event took place at the Miró mosaic on La Rambla, the site where the van finally stopped after being driven down the boulevard.

Victims and relatives laid white carnations while a cellist played the traditional Catalan song, 'El cant dels ocells' ('The Song of the Birds’). 

Officials from the local council, Catalan, and Spanish governments attended Wednesday’s ceremony, including Catalan president Pere Aragonès; the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, ministers of the Spanish government, and the Spanish congress speaker, Meritxell Batet. 

A hundred people also organized a protest countering the official commemoration event, shouting slogans such as "We demand the truth."

Barcelona mayor wants more support for victims

Barcelona mayor ​​Ada Colau believes that neither the Catalan nor the Spanish governments have offered sufficient resources to help the victims of the terror attack. 

Speaking in the morning on Catalan radio station RAC1, she said she expected more tools of support offered to victims and that she hoped Catalan and Spanish authorities would strengthen their devices for such situations to remove bureaucracy for victims.

Catalan president: ‘We are not afraid’

The president of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, remembered the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils with a tweet early in the morning. 

In it, Aragonès says that "we are not afraid of what was said then, it is still more valid than ever." 

"We are a people of peace", he said, and pointed out that the Catalan people "will never forget" what happened five years ago. "Memory for all the victims and a hug to the families. And again, a thank you for the work done those days by so many professionals." 

Psychological effects remain

Of the hundreds of victims of the attacks in August 2017, many were psychological, with no physical injuries. They are not the ones who were seen in the media and even they themselves initially did not consider themselves victims or believed that they did not deserve as much help as the relatives of the dead or the seriously injured. 

Two of these victims, one from La Rambla and the other from Cambrils, told the Catalan News Agency that they initially felt guilty for not having been physically injured and for asking for psychological help to deal with the trauma they experienced. 

"I felt that I shouldn't complain because other people deserved more help," says former kiosk worker Alejandra Algar.

Núria Figueras, meanwhile, was on holiday in Cambrils with her partner. One of the terrorists attacked her partner with a knife, who suffered a significant wound from the ear to the sternum, significantly affecting his breathing. 

Rubén intervened between the terrorist and his partner, and Núria only suffered a few scratches on her legs. "It didn't seem like it happened to me, it looked like a movie, with so much blood," he explains.

Núria initially had the same reaction as Alejandra. She felt "guilty" for having chosen Cambrils as a vacation spot, for her life being saved thanks to her partner, for not having suffered any major injuries, as Rubén did, and for needing help.

In many cases, these victims feel that the administrations have not treated them as such either, and they have had many problems in being officially recognized as such and receiving help.

The ruling from the National Court recognized around 350 victims of the events of August 2017 across Catalonia, from the accidental explosion in the terrorists’ house in Alcanar on August 16 and 17, the fatal van collisions on La Rambla, and the attack with a car and machetes on the promenade of Cambrils. 

350 is a higher number of victims than those initially recognized by the interior ministry, but there are still many unrecognized according to organizations that help and represent victims of terrorism. 

As in other types of crimes, some victims may initially try to deny how certain events have affected them or they may not explain for years that they have experienced any kind of trauma.

16 deaths in summer 2017 terror attack

On August 17, 2017, a white van drove into a crowd gathered on Barcelona's La Rambla boulevard, causing chaos, injury, and deaths. The attacker fled in a stolen car after killing the driver. Hours later, after midnight, five other men stabbed a woman in a nearby seaside town.

In all, 16 people died and 140 were injured. All men directly responsible for the attacks were eventually killed by police. But they were later found to be part of a larger jihadist cell – one that was preparing attacks on an even bigger scale.