This ElNacional.cat interview was first published in August 2018.
Javier Martínez will never be the same again. On 17th August 2017 part of his life was taken from him. Xavi, his 3-year-old son, died in the terrorist attack on Barcelona's Rambla. The small boy was with his uncle, who also died, as well as his mother and sister, who both survived because the girl, Marina, wanted to go and buy a bracelet. For a year, Javier hasn't stopped asking himself questions, looking for answers, it's his way of coping, of moving forward. He's met with all the senior officials he's been able to, with all those who have responsibilities, because he doesn't want his son's death to have been in vain. He wants things to change, for the world to be a little better, for Xavi's death to have been useful for "something good". He doesn't like being asked how he is, but I won't learn that till later, so I start with the very question which he dislikes.
It will be a year on Friday. How are you?
How am I? I'm not well, I'm off work, I'm in psychological and psychiatric treatment because the body can't take all this, you think it can, but no. Well, well, I'm not well... it's very hard. Since all this happened, I don't know anymore what it is to be well. I know I have to carry on for my daughter, but something very big and very important is missing, my 3-year-old son is missing and that has to be accepted, it's for life... But I still haven't managed it.
For a year you've been hunting for answers to many questions. You've knocked on many doors. Have you converted it into your self-defence mechanism?
Grief has several phases but I haven't been through them. I buried my son and from there I had two options, either to stay home as they told me (and not talk to anybody), or to attempt to find out what happened, why my son died, and in this second option I found strength to try and make people realised what had happened, why it happened and what could be improved. Almost a year has gone by and there are many things that are not working well.
What are they?
Many, from how you stop something like this, through to how you deal with it when it happens.
I hugged the imam because it came from my heart. I also hugged the Muslim children because some of them played with my son. It was very beautiful, because I didn't have Xavi any more to hug
The image that everybody thinks of when they speak about you, is the one in Rubí - the town near Barcelona where you live - of your hug with the town's imam, shortly after losing your son. Have you and the imam seen each other again?
No, but I'll explain that. On the trail of getting to know people and finding out what had happened, one of the things which I wanted to do was to talk to the Muslim community. In Rubí we share many things with this community, the Moroccan children played with my son in the park. I saw that the Muslims were suffering very much, that they were avoiding the street where my parents lived, they were saying nothing... so, if you don't come to me, I will go to you, I thought. I wanted to know what they thought of what had happened and because of that I went to talk to the imam.
That same day the mayor of Rubí asked me if I wanted to go on a demonstration. It seemed an important moment for me because people wanted to give me their support and many belonged to the Muslim community. The hug was spontaneous. I wanted the death of my son, who was very beautiful, to be for a beautiful thing, not to start a war. My son was too beautiful for it to be for something bad. The imam started to cry on his own, in front of everybody, and I embraced him because it was came from my heart. I also hugged the Muslim kids who were sitting in front of me because some of them used to play with my son and to see them was like seeing him. It was very beautiful because I didn't have Xavi any more to hug. It was a way to tell these people that it wasn't their fault. To avoid what happened, people have to talk more, not shut things up
In your journey to find answers and ask for changes and explanations, you started getting to know people. Who?
Important people, people directly involved with what happened, Xavier Trias and Ada Colau - former and current mayors of Barcelona - Pilar Rahola, who has written books about jihadism, with the Catalan Mossos police, with the police chief Trapero, with David Torrents who also knows a lot about jihadism, with many members of the Catalan parliament, with president Torra...
And what do you talk about? What do you ask of them?
I ask them for the care given to the victims to be better, I can't ask for anything else. When we find out what happened and what went wrong, I suppose that people wll try to fix up the care of the victims.
I ask for the care of the victims to be better. I have felt very much abandoned by the government administrations. The only ones who did a good job were the Mossos, they've always been at my side. I don't know whether it's because they are trained for it, or due to their affinity or because they felt they'd failed, like me, for not having been able to save the life of my son, me as a father and them as police
What has this care been like?
I can only explain how I've felt, how they have acted with us and the abandonment we have had from the government administrations, from Spain's central government as well as the Catalan government. There are regions that have a protocol for care to victims but there is not anything here. We can't expect them to come from Madrid to care for us.
I have felt alone, very much alone, before all the bodies that are connected with this: the church, the government bodies, the Muslims, the psychologists — many don't know how to tell you to accept it—, and the politicians! They are people that we have appointed to resolve things and when there is an occurrence like this they have to step up, that's why we put them there! (Javier is annoyed as he says this). The only ones who have done well are the Mossos, they've always been on my side and they continue to be. They couldn't do anything but they were there, calling me, sending me Christmas messages, they have always been there, always by my side, the first days, the hardest days... I don't know whether it was because of their training, or because of affinity or because they felt they'd failed, like me, for not having been able to save the life of my son, me as a father and them as police, which is their job. We have had a lot of empathy. Later I got to know Robert Manrique and probably many other people too that I forget right now.
You say that you didn't receive support either from the church or the Muslim community. What were you expecting?
That they would hold a talk or something and would speak about what happened... that we would all contribute our two cents' worth. We are all involved in it, if your son dies of an illness or in an accident you focus on the illness or the accident but I cannot focus on anybody because my son has been killed by a terrorist group that is present all over the world, it is a global thing, they kill my son for a geopolitical issue, what I can do to try and change it? I want the death of my son to be useful for something, even if it is just to think a little, we all have to see that. If we were better people and we thought like people we would already be a bit better. Or we could get worse and start a war, there are also many people who want that.
I have so many sorrys accumulated that I could make a book of them: sorry for not having been able to prevent it, sorry for not knowing that you were suffering, sorry for not knowing how to do things well
You say that you have a folder of sorrys.
I have so many sorrys. Sorry, sorry, sorry from so many important people that I could make a book of them: sorry because I couldn't prevent it, sorry because we didn't know that you were suffering, sorry because we didn't know how to do things well...
Who did this, who ordered it, who paid for it, in the name of whom? ...all this has to be found out and the only thing that can be seen are the victims! Victims here, victims there, there is blood and how you are and how you no longer are... Has anybody thought about why that boy who was integrated among us did this? What has failed in education? What has failed in the system? Who is looking at all this? It is only the victims and the van in the Rambla that people are interested in! When will they start to get to the truth? When will they start to do something so that it doesn't happen again? Do I have to do it, the father of a dead three-year-old boy? What training do I have?
I would like it not to happen again, I would give my life so that it didn't happen again. If they were to tell me that, by killing me, it would mean that nobody would die in an attack, let them kill me right now because I have my son waiting for me up there.
If they were to tell me that, by killing me, it would mean that nobody would die in an attack, let them kill me right now because I have my son waiting for me up there
The worst that can happen to anybody happened to me, they kill your son, they murder him, when you ask "how are you?" ...how do you think I am? For me the hardest thing is not the 17th, it is the 25th, when my son would have been 4 years old and I don't know what he would be like, and I will never know what he would be like when he's 5 years old, or 6 or 7 or 8, or 18. Would he have a girlfriend? What job would he do, would he be a pilot? I've lost the life of my son, I've lost a piece of my heart. When you lose a father you are an orphan, when you lose a partner, you are widowed and when you lose a child what are you? A poor unfortunate?
The strength I have is my daughters and I have to let them see that I am well... But I can't live in the same way. My daughter Marina, who saw how her brother and uncle died, deserves to live and we have to fight so that she can erase all that memory.
It is only the victims and the van in the Rambla that people are interested in! When will they start to get to the truth? When will they start to do something so that it doesn't happen again? Do I have to do it, the father of a dead three-year-old boy? What training do I have?
You are very angry with the press, with journalists...
So badly done! Don't they have families? Don't they have feelings? When they give the Ortega y Gasset journalism prize for a photo of an agonizing boy... what are they thinking? Do they really have to give it a prize? Is there any parent in the world who wants to see them give a prize to the photo of their dying child. Has anybody thought about the damage this does? The damage that the photo of the Rambla, the van, does, it doesn't let us grieve. Maybe in 20 or 25 years we can finish this grieving.
For me the hardest day is after the 17th. I will never know how my son will be when he is 4, 5 or 6 years old, what he would have done for a job, would he have a girlfriend? I have lost the life of my son, I have lost a piece of my heart
Angry with journalists and politicians
About politics, I don't want to speak, I want politicians to do something and for that reason I knock on their doors. They are the people that have the authority and the capacity. I don't want money, I want us to all do something together. I couldn't protect my son and this feeling leads me to do what I am doing. I have to live and when I remember that, it doesn't let me live. I need the empathy of many people.
On the 17th August, the Barcelona city council has organized an event in memory of the victims. Will you go?
Yes, I will go to the homage because, as I have told you, for me the hardest days will be on the 18th, 19th and 20th... I will go out of empathy and because Ada Colau wants to make a beautiful event without political representation with the people who suffered and those that helped them. There are many victims who will not come because they still can't, because a year does not heal anything. Every day when you get up you think of your son, I wish there was a pill to forget it all.
And what do you think when you hear that one of the issues people are worrying about is whether or not king Felipe VI is invited or not and whether he is coming or not?
To me the pantomime of the photo is something I don't like at all, they should have done something real already, not now when a year has gone by.
Will anything have changed in another year or in another two?
I am hopeful that it will have, because if I, someone who is nobody, have taken it as far as I have and have talked to the people that I have spoken to and have got to know things that I cannot explain and I am only the father of a dead child... any person can get to this point but this is not my work. I suffer for my daughter, I want to her to be able to live better, to make her lose the fear of walking on the Rambla again, the fear of walking through Barcelona. Either this or we bury ourselves in a hole and never come out again. I have met some beautiful people in my path as well as people who contain a lot of evil.
I want to know the truth. I want my daughter to know why her brother died and I want to know why my son died. I am trying to to do something in the name of my son and of the innocent people that lost their lives. They give me strength to see this through until it's done.