Just before yesterday’s murderous and callous attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, my daughter had stopped there for coffee. She was preparing to say farewell to Barcelona, her home all summer since, like so many young Irish people, she had moved there in May for the summer.
It was her last day. She had intended to get the bus from Las Ramblas to El Prat airport, but seeing how many tourists thronged the thoroughfare, she decided to walk on to the taxi rank at Plaça de Catalunya. Those of her friends who weren’t leaving Barcelona yesterday went with her to wave her off.
When she climbed into the taxi, the driver told her there had just been a terrorist attack. It was the first she had heard of it.
Back in Ireland, news of the terrorist attack was starting to filter through. I was one of the lucky ones. I managed to contact one of Alice’s friends who told me that she had just left for the airport in a taxi.
Others were not so lucky. Alice lived in an apartment in Parc de La Ciutadella for the summer. She walked along Las Ramblas three or four times a day. So did many others, including many, many tourists, those who live or work on the streets, street artists and people simply going out for the paseo in the evenings.
Her flight landed in Belfast around midnight. She was shocked but unharmed – but devastated by the carnage which had taken place in what had been her home for the summer.
Some months ago, I was introduced to Jim Van Laak, the head of Auxilia-USA, a new partner organization hoping to raise funds for and awareness of the outstanding efforts made by the Italian based @Uxilia team throughout the world.
Max Fanni Canelles introduced us.
It was a big deal for me.
You see, Jim Van Laak is one of those responsible for designing, building and testing the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programmes. As a retired system engineer and programme manager, he specialised in large, complex systems. Not only that, he was responsible for integrating an international partnership between Russia and the USA which is still going strong, despite governmental tensions over Syria, Ukraine, Crimea and other issues.
For years I had watched the skies for the ISS passing over my home in the North of Ireland. Wherever I had travelled, I had made sure to check the coordinates of its flight path so that I could check in, weather conditions permitting.
For almost 17 years, people have lived and worked together aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Every so often, you can see the ISS in your night sky. The first time I saw it, I didn’t believe how quickly it moved. It looks like a bright star moving quickly above the horizon. Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, it disappears.
What fascinated me was the idea of seeing the world from outside our world. How did it appear to those like Commander Chris Hadfield, who regularly tweeted to Irish followers when the ISS was due to pass over, along with some of the most amazing photographs I have ever seen?
Two weeks ago, I was out in my garden looking up at the night sky. It was the first time since I had been in touch with James Van Laak that I had gone out to look for the ISS.
Suddenly I realised how the world appeared to Chris Hadfield on the ISS.
Just as it is.
One world, no fear, no hate.
Years ago I took my children to see Picasso’s Guernica in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid. I hope the shock they felt then stays with them today.
The painting was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque village in northern Spain in 1937, by Nazi German and Fascist Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish fascist leader, General Franco.
After it was first shown in Paris, Guernica brought worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War and to the evils of war and terror directed against civilians by forces of the right wherever they may be.
There is no difference between the bloody chaos and indiscriminate terror on the streets of Catalunya yesterday, between the US bombings of children in Syria, nor between the Saudi Arabian blockade of aid to the Yemen, with the covert support of Theresa May’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Nor is there any difference between the tortured bodies in Guernica in 1937 and the twisted corpses on the streets of Barcelona 80 years later. It is the same forces of hate and fear that motivate such attacks.
We are one world. And we must work together sin miedo, ni odio – no fear, no hate.