Lehigh Valley

Emmaus woman a witness to Barcelona terror attack

BARCELONA - An Emmaus woman vacationing in Barcelona, Spain this week says she is lucky to be alive after Thursday's attack.

In less than a week, the vacation of Cathy Fiorillo's dreams, turned into a nightmare.

"I've never felt this feeling before. It was beyond fear…even though this happened in a millisecond...I felt like it was slowed down and in slow motion," she says.

Cathy, a theatre and speech professor at Penn State Schuylkill, landed in Barcelona Saturday, with her boyfriend Dr. Joe Purcell, from Morristown, N.J.

That first night, they visited the popular boulevard known as Las Ramblas and over the next several days proceeded to have the trip of their lives.

Joe suggested they go back to Las Ramblas after a boat ride Thursday night, but Cathy's foot was hurting, so instead, they went to a cafe closer to their hotel, just two blocks away.

Then, as they were finishing dinner, it happened.

"All the sudden, this herd of people started running toward us, saying 'gun, gun'...and I heard a gunshot, just like three times 'boom, boom, boom'," she remembers.

Cathy says they ran, with the masses, and ducked into a store, where the owner pulled down a large metal gate, and a group of strangers huddled together inside.

"We were being attacked by terrorists, and we knew it. We knew it," she tells us.

They managed to make it back to their hotel, where friends contacted them online to let them know what had happened.

A white van, plowed into a crowd on that busy thoroughfare where they almost ended up for dinner.

Thirteen were killed, more than 100 injured.

When they ventured out the next day, they witnessed the moment of silence for the victims. But, as they were out, for the second time in two days, suddenly it happened again -- people screaming, running.

It turned out to be a false alarm, but the fear was the same.

"When it happened again, I was like 'I just want to go home,' you know?' And tonight was nothing," Cathy says, speaking of the false alarm Friday night.

"Tonight was fake, people just started running because they saw police cars coming," she says, emotion in her voice.

Cathy says she knows if her foot hadn't been hurting, they would've been at that spot, and their story, could be different.

She says when she makes it home, she'll do two things.

"Hug my kids, hug my kids and be grateful."              

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