If you look at the ranking of the most dangerous cities in the world, you don’t need to scroll down that much to find Fortaleza, Brazil.
Some colleagues advised me to stay in the area along the sea and to get back to the hotel by 11 PM. “Good advice” I thought when I landed and took a cab to reach my hotel (on the beach, you never know…): the residential buildings I passed by were protected by high fences and electrified wires, a clear hint about the ranking….
But once arrived at the hotel, the view from the room was beautiful.
It was easy to forget the dangers and enter into the “equatorial mood”: it was Sunday, so it was also beach time, before the upcoming week full of important meetings.
The beach and the warm water were amazing, as amazing were the tropical fruit salad and the cold passion fruit juice got just with the feet in the white sand.
Due to its latitude, in Fortaleza you can experience a quite fast sunset at 5.30 PM:
So, around 6.30 PM I was already walking along the sea, in the middle of a big crowd.
Sipping coco juice from a fresh coconut, I was enjoying my first time in Brazil: the beach was illuminated by big stadium-like lights and many people were running, having yoga sessions, playing volleyball… in other words enjoying all kinds of sports.
My target was anyway the restaurant that, according to internet and to the receptionists, was one of the best nearby.
The sidewalk was really crowded.
When I was almost at half way, I had two options: continue straight head or steer left.
I was curious to see the area at my left side.
I steered left.
A few seconds later, I heard fast steps behind me and suddenly some guys were running in my direction.
They were not interested in me.
Fear was the expression I could read in their faces when they overtook me.
Then the big noise started, like some explosions similar to fireworks. But the sky was still very dark and the explosions were very near, so they couldn’t be fireworks. This thought went through my mind at the speed of light; at the same speed I realized that I was just in the middle of a shooting.
Many explosions meant many bullets. The path was still crowded, but people were now running away in all the directions, bringing and protecting their kids under their arms.
Was I in the trajectory of any bullet?
We will never know…
Curiosity was not enough to bring me to the left, so I went straight away.
A few seconds later, I just perceived that someone was running in the back left side, where I had decided not to go.
Then the noise started, like some explosions similar to fireworks. But the sky was still very dark and the explosions were quite near, so they couldn’t be fireworks. This thought went through my mind at the speed of light; at the same speed I realized that I had just missed a shooting and that it was still too close to me.
I started running, together with many other people, most of whom were carrying and protecting their kids under their arms.
Once on the other side of the street, enough away from the crime scene and with no more explosions in the air, I stopped: we all were looking in the same direction, thanking our God or Angel or any other Entity present above that multi-ethnic side walk.
It’s difficult to forget the expression in the face of some kids. My daughter sometimes says: “Do you remember when we saw that car up-side-down in Via Boccea?” She didn’t see the whole accident, she only saw the car after the accident, when everything was finished. Well, she was 2 years old at that time and after 8 years she still remembers it (probably through that special magnifier that all kids have): I cannot imagine how her mind could have reacted to this experience.
My reaction was easy: squid rings, fish in coconut milk with fried banana and beer, a lot of beer.