CLEMSON – Suffice to say that members of the Clemson University men’s basketball team have never been so happy to be back on home soil.
The team recently embarked on a 10-day trip to Spain to play a little basketball and gain some insight into foreign culture. Instead, Coach Brad Brownell and his players were thrust into the middle of an international tragedy on their final full day in the country on Thursday.
At least 13 people were killed and 80 injured Thursday in Barcelona, Spain, when a van plowed into a crowd of people in the heart of the Las Ramblas district, a popular tourist area. The Clemson team was staying in a nearby hotel and witnessed and heard the commotion of what is being called a terrorist attack by Spanish officials.
“Eye-opening and tragic,” Brownell said. “We had some people see things that you don’t like to see.”
Those who saw the aftermath of the attack included Donte Grantham, a senior forward on the team.
“It was like 10,000 people just scattering everywhere,” Grantham said. “People running at us, people falling down.”
Grantham feels blessed to be alive. Less than 20 seconds before tragedy struck, Grantham had been chatting with teammate Mark Donnal in the middle of the strip – the same area where a van plowed into unsuspecting victims seconds later.
His immediate thought?
“Get to shelter,” Grantham said.
Grantham said he and his teammates had no idea what was going on.
“At first we thought it was gunshots – that’s how loud it was,” Grantham said. “We didn’t stay to keep looking. It was literally right outside our hotel. People were screaming.”
The exhibition game that the team was supposed to play Thursday night was canceled and the group of approximately 25 to 30 people traveling with the Clemson party returned as scheduled on Friday, arriving in Clemson a little after 7 p.m.
Neither Grantham nor roommate Marcquise Reed slept Thursday night, but have instead discussed what happened and how fortunate they were.
“We’ve had a few meetings together,” Grantham said. “We’ve talked about not taking anything for granted and thanking God that we’re all here. I think it’s going to make us closer.”
“We said a prayer or two and we’re very thankful that we were, No. 1, able to go on a trip like that, but also, No. 2, to realize that unfortunately it’s a very difficult world we live in now and there’s going to be tragedy and things you can’t explain,” he said. “It certainly is a teaching moment that every day’s a blessing.”
Scott Keepfer, The Greenville News