A year after attacks, Barcelona harbors demons for survivors


S'AGARO, Spain, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Silvia Gallart has returned to Barcelona's central boulevard only once since a van careered past her as it plowed through crowds there last August, leaving a trail of dead and injured.

The tree-lined Ramblas bustles again with tourists and locals, but Silvia, 54, could only cope there for five minutes when she visited the site.

Barcelona is preparing to commemorate the first anniversary of the Aug. 17 attack on Friday. Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, King Felipe, and Catalan President Quim Torra will attend a tribute to the victims along with other national, regional and local authorities.

"I thought that everything was going to be over at that moment. You see death dressed in white coming straight at you and it passes by your side," said Gallart.

"It's a bloodcurdling sensation. At that moment you think everything is over, your end has come."

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the van attack, Spain's deadliest in over a decade, and a separate deadly assault hours later in the nearby coastal resort of Cambrils, which killed a total of 16 people.

"Before the attack here we used to talk at home about the other attacks that had happened elsewhere in Europe and I always said I would not be afraid but I was totally wrong," she said.

"I am terrified."

Silvia pushed her husband out of harm's way as 22 year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub mowed down pedestrians.

As video footage of the aftermath at the Ramblas circulated on the internet, Adriana Martin tried to track down her mother and sister, who had been hit. Her sister was particularly badly injured.

"She was not dead but because of the seriousness of the wounds they took her to the back of a store and covered her like a corpse," Martin said.

Martin was so traumatized by the experience she cannot answer telephone calls, communicating instead by text messages, but she says she is not afraid any more.

"I respect (the danger) in the same way I respect the sea. You know that a terrorist attack can happen again but that doesn't stop you from living your life," she said.

Abouyaaqoub, who was shot dead by police five days later, belonged to a group whose members mainly came from Ripoll, the small town north of Barcelona where Gallart works for the local Red Cross.

"They were young people who were part of the society in Ripoll, who had grown up with our children," Gallart said.

"Why did they do it? Why did they kill? They said they would make us cry tears of blood and they succeeded. But why?" (Writing by Isla Binnie Editing by Alexandra Hudson)