A year later, Catalonia attacks harbours trauma for survivors

Daniel BOSQUE
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The Barcelona and Cambrils attacks killed 16 people and wounded over 100 last August

Ruben Guinazu will on Saturday mark a year since he survived being stabbed during the deadly jihadist attacks in Barcelona and a nearby seaside resort.

"On Saturday I will mark a year of life," Guinazu, a 55-year-old with grey hair and a trimmed beard, told a news conference.

In the early hours of August 18 last year he was stabbed in the face by a young jihadist on the seaside promenade at Cambrils in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia.

A few hours earlier about 120 kilometres (75 miles) to the northeast, a white van sped right by Ana Cortes before ploughing into the crowds on a stretch of the pedestrian concourse of Barcelona's most famous street, Las Ramblas, leaving behind a trail of blood.

Cortes, 42, was not injured, but she says she is still haunted by the horror she witnessed.

"The van passed by me just half a metre away and from there I saw everything, everything he did... people flew into the air like broken dolls, I was paralysed, there were many people bleeding, on the floor," she recalled, her words choked by emotion.

The lives of both have been marked by this double attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, which cut short the lives of 16 people and wounded over 100 others.

- 'Born again' -

A year later the memories of that night remain vivid for Guinazu. He was on holidays in Cambrils on the Mediterranean coast with his partner, Nuria Figueras.

The couple had just left a concert at a bar when an Audi A3 with five jihadists crashed into a police car at a checkpoint.

The five, who were wearing fake explosives belts, then got out of the car and attacked people standing nearby with knives and an axe.

"I don't remember anything about the attacker, I only saw him stabbing me. He left the knife stuck in my face, it plunged 15 centimetres (six inches) into my head. He cut my tonsils, vocal cord, tongue," Guinazu said.

"I took the knife out of my face and it started bleeding a lot, it was hard for me to breathe, I honestly thought I was dying," he added.

The first aid quickly provided by other passersby stopped the bleeding and a six-hour operation saved his life. Now a long scar on his right cheeks serves as a reminder of what he went through.

Guinazu has recovered his voice but he can not completely close his right eyelid and has lost his sense of taste.

"I am born again and here we are," he said.

- 'Still running' -

In the case of Cortes her wounds are not visible but they still sting.

She has never again gone to Las Ramblas, where she was waiting for a friend on the afternoon of the attack. The van sped close by her before racing down the street, mowing down dozens of people.

Police evacuated the area and she hid inside a nearby metro station. But amid rumours of a possible bomb, she and others fled the station.

"We ran out and today I'm still running," she said.

"I still see images, have anxiety attacks. I look all around me whenever I walk the streets, if I see people running or screaming I get anxiety attacks.

"People tell me something that I know very well: 'You were very lucky, you have to move on, you weren't hurt'. I was hurt, I have internal wounds that you don't see but that take a long time to heal," she added.