A former University of New England student has been caught up in the Barcelona terror attack today.
Sacha Gratton was with four friends on Las Ramblas minutes before a van mowed down locals and tourists, killing at least 13 people and injuring 100.
“She decided on the spur of the moment that she needed to go to the shop to get a packet of cigarettes,” Sacha’s mother, Faith Gratton told Fairfax Media on Friday.
It was a move that may have saved her life, Mrs Gratton said.
“As they were walking back to their flat, which is only three blocks from the square, she suddenly noticed a commotion behind her,” she said.
“She counted 25 sirens rushing past her and she could hear the screams.”
Mrs Gratton, who currently lives in Armidale, said a person running from the chaos told Sacha “a van had run into people”.
She counted 25 sirens rushing past her and she could hear the screams.Faith Gratton
“She ran back to the apartment and texted me straight away,” Mrs Gratton said.
“She said ‘I’m okay … a van has run into people … I can hear it all happening and they’ve closed off my street and all the train stations’.
“That was at 1:28am our time and it was 5:38pm where she was.
I’m okay … a van has run into people … I can hear it all happening and they’ve closed off my street and all the train stations.Sacha Gratton
“As she sent it I thought ‘that’s the time of maximum people in the square at that time of the evening’.”
Shortly after her first messages, Sacha also said there were local reports of two armed men in her “favourite bar”.
“They had taken hostages apparently,” Mrs Gratton said.
Sacha had been travelling Croatia for a few weeks and had just returned to Barcelona.
“She just said to me the other day, Barcelona is my favourite city and next time you should come with me,” Mrs Gratton said.
But despite today’s horror, the seasoned traveller and Sydneysider says she won’t cut her trip short.
“She’s given no indication she’ll come home early,” Mrs Gratton said.
“I think I’m panicking more than her.”