A Bay Shore native, who rushed to help pedestrians after they were run down by a van in Barcelona last week, is trying to raise money for some of the victims.
Heather Martin, 29, was looking at a dress inside a store off La Rambla, a crowded pedestrian avenue, last Thursday when she heard screaming, she said over the phone from Barcelona.
Martin, who has been traveling through Europe and Africa for the past three months, thought a celebration had started nearby and took out her cellphone to record the festivities. But when she zoomed in on the activity across the street, she said she saw a woman and a boy, both injured and bloodied, and a girl kneeling by their side.
“There were people screaming for their loved ones in all different languages,” Martin said. “I think I knew what happened at that point. My heart sunk.”
Martin earned bachelor’s degrees in nursing and Spanish from the University at Buffalo in 2010 and then worked as an ICU nurse at Buffalo General Hospital for four years. When she saw the injured people, her instinct was to try to help, Martin said.
As she ran toward the group, the girl, a 10-year-old named Fatima El Ouabi, cried out to Martin: “Please don’t let my mother die!”
Martin grabbed Fatima, “squeezed her so hard” and told her that she needed her to be strong and to translate for her mother, Requia Ouhou, who spoke only French and Arabic, according to Martin. Martin said she wrapped Ouhou’s hijab tightly around her head to stem the flow of blood from a laceration near her eye and put her in a neck collar that an EMT threw to her.
When Martin felt confident Ouhou’s injuries were not life-threatening, she told Fatima her mother would be OK. Fatima responded by telling Martin that someday she’d become a nurse too. They spoke to each other in Spanish.
“I told her, I would be honored to have you in my profession one day,” Martin said. “When I said goodbye, I gave her a huge hug. I don’t think I’ve ever hugged anyone so hard.”
A doctor who happened to be nearby tended to the boy, a cousin of Fatima’s who’s currently in a coma but whose prognosis is “positive,” according to Martin.
Martin was interviewed by a Finnish media outlet after the incident and is also seen holding Fatima in footage that aired on CNN.
In the hours after the attack, which killed at least 14 people and injured more than 100, Martin contacted her friend, Kimberly Viola, 30, of West Babylon, and told her about what happened.
“I was completely frightened that she was involved in this, but I thought she was amazing for stepping up,” said Viola, who’s been close friends with Martin since their freshman year at Bay Shore High School.
Viola helped Martin set up a GoFundMe page Saturday to raise money for the family’s medical bills and for Fatima’s studies. As of Monday night, they had raised $1,155.
Martin will be back in Bay Shore later this week. But before she returned she visited Fatima and Ouhou Monday in the hospital. Ouhou suffered a serious injury but is medically stable, according to Martin.
“These people, and especially that little girl, were just so inspiring to me,” Martin said. “It was emotional to see that I may have inspired her as well.”