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Former LI resident caught in middle of Barcelona terror attack

A photo taken by former Long Island resident

A photo taken by former Long Island resident Justin Calderon in Barcelona shows a vigil on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, a day after deadly attacks in Spain. Credit: Justin Calderon

CAMBRILS, SPAIN — Shaken residents of two popular vacation destinations put their fears aside and tried to resume their lives after what Spanish authorities said appeared to be a series of coordinated terrorist attacks that killed at least 14 people.

Former Long Island resident Justin Calderon, a freelance journalist who lives in Barcelona, said he was among thousands of people who participated Friday in a noon vigil that included a moment of silence in the place where one of the attacks happened. “People followed the route the van took and chanted in Catalan, ‘We will not be afraid,’ ” he said.

Calderon, 32, who grew up in Ridge, said he heard an intense amount of police activity Thursday as the terrorist attack unfolded on Las Ramblas, the giant pedestrian avenue he compared to Manhattan’s Times Square.

“I was in my house,” he said, speaking of his residence on a street that runs parallel to where the van mowed down dozens in a deadly assault. “I made the decision not to go outside.”

Calderon said information about what was going on in the neighborhood spread quickly through a phone texting app, where he received videos of the carnage and police counterterrorism operation going on outside. Calderon described the area as a diverse place that many Muslims call home.

“No one had thought that it would come here,” the Marist College graduate said of the violence.

He said there was still no traffic in the center of Barcelona, and the few shopkeepers who had opened their businesses hung black ribbons of mourning.

About 70 miles south of Barcelona, Spanish vacationers in the beachfront town of Cambrils were shaken out of their beds as police gunfire erupted on the town’s promenade where several hundred people ran from outdoor cafes and ice cream stands early Friday.

After enduring a numbing shock from Thursday’s Barcelona attacks a mood of grief descended on this upbeat popular beach community. Families tried to make life normal for their children with a day at the beach. The town is visited by a smattering of French and German visitors who rent apartments here for its usually quiet atmosphere.

After a night of terror, store grocer Amr Shaker, 41, a nine-year resident of Cambrils, returned to work Friday morning. He said he was standing outside his store about 1:30 a.m. Friday when he saw the car with five young men careening down a pedestrian walkway hit a parked police cruiser that was stationed in front of Club Náutic.

“I thought it was an accident but the driver kept ramming the police car,” said Shaker. “It only took a few moments before there were dozens of police.” Shaker said the car also jumped the curb and flipped over. He said he saw one attacker run toward the beach before he was shot by police.

“This never happened before in Cambrils, but like the rest of the world these things happen everywhere,” Shaker said. Muria Roswell, 26, of Barcelona, who recently got a job at a clothing store on the Cambrils promenade, said she was closing when she heard gunshots. “There were more than 15 bullets. People were running down the sidewalk looking for a place to hide. Either you ran or got hit by bullets,” said Roswell. “We ran into a bar and hid there until police came in and told us to evacuate.”

Enrique Peri, 40, manager of Lisu restaurant, said he found himself in the middle of gunfire after he finished work on the promenade and waited for a taxi to take him to his sister’s home in nearby Reus.

“I was in the middle of this,” he said. “It was complete panic. Bodies were laying on the sidewalk . . . One would not think this could happen here because this is not an international spot for tourism.”

Peri said the car tried to mow down people sitting in outdoor cafes.

One woman was killed when the attacking car flipped over onto the sidewalk.

As evening fell in this small Catalan town, few pedestrians walked by the seaside promenade as waitstaff stood next to empty cafe chairs and lonely ice cream stores.

“I feel nervous right now,” said Laura Marginet, 22, of Cambrils, who works at the Queens women’s clothing store. “It will take days before I feel normal.”

Juan Dominguez Alvarez, a grocery store cashier at the Supermercat next door, said, “This is a real tragedy . . . seeing people killed in the streets with women and children running and crying. It is an experience I will never forget.”

Waitresses returning to work Friday night were apprehensive.

“One moment there is music, people dancing and eating and then tables were being turned over with wineglasses flying across the air,” said Montse Guinovart, 29, a waitress who hid behind a sofa inside Club Náutic. She used a tray to shield her head.

“I know it sounds ridiculous but that’s what happened. I held onto that tray for two and half hours. . . . I slept very little,” Guinovart said.

“Right now, I am praying that this does not happen again,” Guinovart said.

With Bridget Murphy in New York

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