When I saw the carnage in Barcelona on the nightly news, I texted my husband to ask that he cancel his flight. I had no intention of missing the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) 2017 Congress, but Tony didn't have to go. As my plus-one, he planned to tour and golf while I would work securely behind barricades, metal detectors, and pass by the occasional bomb-sniffing dog.

"We have to think of the kids," I texted, referring to our grown daughters, one married and the other about to be. "There is no need for both of us to take a chance."

"You aren't going without me," he replied, in a phone call, not a text, so I didn't argue further.

On our first morning in Barcelona, we listened to news coverage of the antiterrorism march to be held that afternoon. Emails announced the close of the front entrance of one of the hotels where our team was staying and warned of difficult traffic patterns and delays.

At the opening press conference, I heard welcome remarks by ESC President Fausto Pinto and then answers to questions that seemed out of place at a heart meeting, such as whose idea was it for the barricades outside the convention center? Dr Pinto explained that canceling ESC was never an option, but their immediate attention turned to safety. I was angry about the attacks but it's anger as wasted as fisticuffs thrust into the air. Soon enough in the safe haven of Fira Gran Via, we journalists and columnists were amply distracted by work, deadlines, and the business of trying to help save lives instead of finding ways to destroy them.

I first noticed the change with regard to security concerns when standing in the courtyard of the Louvre with my daughter Aaron on a trip to Paris after the 2015 ESC meeting in London. We watched as perhaps 12 or 15 soldiers in camouflage with bullet belts and AKs went running toward the statuary to our right. Like a flock of geese, the soldiers turned in unison and ran toward the stairway, disappearing with total precision. Instinctively, I walked toward the stairwell to see what was happening, forgetting how frightened Aaron must have been. "Mom, we need to get out of here," she said while tugging my arm.

We went to Notre Dame to find armed soldiers there too, standing on high alert. "This is not the Paris we know, honey," I said to Aaron. Five weeks later, the Paris attacks occurred, killing over 100 people and affecting many of the places we'd toured. It was no longer the Paris that anyone knew.

The next year the ESC meeting was in Rome. Despite the earthquake in the nearby town of Amatrice, Rome seemed calmer than Paris, but it was the first time I had to walk through a metal detector and a plethora of armed guards at a convention center. Rome was changing, too.

The Barcelona memorial

In Barcelona, Tony and I strolled La Rambla to see the makeshift memorial to the fallen. We passed rolling carts of yellow and red roses, T-shirts, and news cameras as bystanders knelt unwrapping package after package. They handed out hundreds of these symbols of sympathy to the crowd. Once there, we awkwardly stood nearby as some wept, feeling like intruders and trying not to appear as spectators, but when hundreds of thousands of protestors marched by chanting and carrying brightly painted signs proclaiming, "No tinc por" ("I'm not afraid" in Catalan), it reinforced our desire to be there.

Our friends in New York and Washington, DC adopted this same "No tinc por" attitude after their cities were attacked by barbarians. I remember my friend Rob Dowling, a CV surgeon who was attending a meeting on that September 11 in downtown DC. He was scheduled to perform the second-ever Abiocor heart transplant in Louisville, KY the day after the attack on the Pentagon. He literally hitchhiked out of Washington and eventually got back to Louisville. After a 24-hour delay (to rest) he implanted the heart in Tom Christerson at Jewish Hospital.

Unfortunately, much of the world has been forced to keep calm and carry on after senseless acts of cowardice and ignorance. Boarding a plane and walking around knee-deep in security is trite compared with what many face. Today, we who are attending the ESC 2017 meeting have carried on without fear. With 500,000 strong marching against terror just blocks from the meeting, I'm proud of that.


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