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Barricaded in Barcelona: A Eugene student writes of her experiences during the terror attacks in Spain

While backpacking around Europe before college, my friend 18-year-old Laphoenix Warner-McDonald and I found ourselves experiencing the effects of a terror attack in Barcelona, Spain. Being far away from home while this is happening is intense. My first thought was “How quickly can I get home?”

Stuck in hostel on a blocked-off road in Barcelona, Laphoenix and I are trying to make the best of our situation. The hostel is crawling with people. We all play board games — chess and Clue — and offer each other chips from the singular vending machine.

It’s 1:30 in the morning as I write this. People are exhausted from mental and physical trauma, yet few are asleep. The hostel employees are visibly distressed. They snap at each other in English and Spanish.

We look out the window and see the hundreds of people barricaded from where they need to be. The police tape is stretched and pulled by anxious adults, and parents sit under it with children stretched on their laps.

The police allow five or 10 people to leak out of the barricade every few minutes. They rush down the empty street towards their accommodations.

I was asleep when the attack happened. A van, two streets over from the hostel, drove intentionally through a huge crowd of tourists. When the van hit a newspaper kiosk, the unidentified driver escaped on foot. Police were quick to barricade the area. I woke to sirens and disorientedly reassured my worried loved ones from Eugene that Laphoenix and I were safe.

Laphoenix was also napping until moments after the attack.

“When I woke up, I read a message from someone I met yesterday,” Laphoenix explained. “She asked if I was alright, and told me that there was a bus accident. She said something about it being an attack. I looked outside — went outside actually, and saw all the police. There was tape blocking our hostel off from the street. Every 30 seconds, an ambulance would go shooting down the road.”

The scene outside the window

A few individuals ended up at our hostel unexpectedly. James Allman, 15, of England, was rushed into the hostel during the chaos after the attack.

 “I saw everyone running towards the barricades,” he says, “back towards where it happened. I just went with them, and ended up here.”

James talks of his uncle, who is stuck at a hotel a few blocks away. “I think he saw it, or heard the gunshots. He was on the roof of the hotel. He saw, I think, dead bodies on the ground.”

James Allman waits at the hostel in Barcelona

With 13 people confirmed as dead, and about 100 more injured, Barcelona is aching. An American man, Jared Tucker, 43, from California, is among those injured. As I write this, the man who hit the victims has yet to be found, but police are continuing to search relentlessly. Countries all around the world are responding to this tragedy with love and expressing their support.

And now, rather than thinking about how soon I can go home, today my mind has been altered by the time I've spent caged up with these traumatized people. They refuse to collapse in fear. Instead, they are attentive, they are endlessly supportive, and they do as much as they can to positively impact the situation. Because of them, I don't want to run home anymore. I won't hide from uncontrollable situations. They happen, and all I can do is decide how to react, whether that be with fear or with grit, grace and strength.

Eugene resident Fiona Corrigan is backpacking through Europe before starting college in the fall.