After hearing of the terrorist attack in Barcelona, I contacted my German friend, Margrit.
Thirty-six years ago in 1981, my mother and father met Margrit’s parents at a wine festival in Margrit’s hometown, Deidesheim, Germany. Our two sets of parents shared the ages of their children, and they discovered they had two girls approximately the same age, Margrit and me. Our parents exchanged addresses, and Margrit and I became pen pals.
Our letters tied us together. Even after the tech revolution, we continued to write. Margrit and I’ve adjusted our writing. We still both prefer a handwritten letter, and I could pick Margrit’s beautiful script out of a line-up for sure! Our letters aren’t as frequent, but with the tech revolution, we’re able to follow each other on Facebook and share photos via messenger. Margrit and I’ve celebrated world events, like the downfall of the Berlin Wall, and we’ve denounced horrors, like the despicable acts of 9.11.
Inspiring this blog entry is Margrit’s and my time on Las Ramblas, celebrating our 25th friendship anniversary in June 2009. Margrit and I walked side-by-side down the peaceful Boulevard, enjoying the summer evening. We people-watched, listened to street musicians and chose a place to stop for a ‘tres bier Grazie.’
We had our photo taken with a Las Ramblas street performer, a larger-than-life gargoyle, who while the camera clicked, leaned in for a kiss, whispering Catalan into my ear. Margrit and I laughed about the gargoyle’s forwardness, and in the years to come, the photo reminded Margrit and me of our harmless, fun-loving encounter with the Gargoyle on Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
The photo’s taken during a time when peacefulness accompanied most traveling Westerners. A time when terrorists weren’t walking into crowded tourist areas with bombs strapped to their backs. A time when people rented cars to get to a destination not to kill people. A time when we guarded our wallets against pickpocketers but didn’t fear for our lives when having coffee or tea in a city square.
On Thursday, August 17th, the day of terror on Las Ramblas, I contacted Margrit on WhatsApp. I sent her the news headliner and referenced our 2009 photo:
our moment with the gargoyle is on my mind😩😢
And three days later – quicker than a letter traveling over the Atlantic but slower than pressing send on a social media message or an international texting app – I received Margrit’s response.
Happiness and tragedy are so close together 🙁
A van didn’t bloodily extinguish our lives on Las Ramblas when we were there. Instead, we had a trustworthy interaction with a gargoyle. To us, Las Ramblas is a place of inside-jokes and laughter, and now I can’t help but cringe thinking about what Las Ramblas elicits in those who suffered pain, personal loss, and unbearable heartache because of a heinous, despicable crime.
Friends, this isn’t only Barcelona’s terror, this is our world’s worst nightmare unfolding in front of our eyes – the disregard for human life and the desensitization toward violence are crippling our world.
Let’s stop the madness!
But thankfully, so do pen pals –
To who and what are you paying attention? Good or evil?
A pen pal uses words not weapons to write a life story.
The world should take a page out of a pen pal’s book.
Remember the adage, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me?’
My hope is within my lifetime, words connect us again, not ill-willed reactions, violent acts or deliberate tragedy.
One can hope and plot our comeback –
One kind word at a time.
May you find your peace again, Barcelona!