Delano caught up with Kent about his experience reporting with international media after the 17 August terror attack in Las Ramblas and on the mood of the city since the event.
What were you doing when the attack on Las Ramblas took place?
It was business as usual at the radio station, when one of the team received a notification of some sort of an incident on Las Ramblas. So we made our way as close to the scene of the incident as the police would allow. They had already cleared Las Ramblas, and a cordon was in place. We found space at the end, close to the sea, and there was a fleet of ambulances on one side and many police vehicles on the other.
Can you describe the atmosphere?
There was a mix of people and emotions. Many people had been locked in restaurants and shops along the sides of Las Ramblas by the police and were trickling out when we arrived, some were scared and others bewildered by what was going on. There were thousands of other tourists coming back from the beach who had not yet heard the news and therefore had their own questions. Incorrect news of a hostage situation was then broadcast on TV, and news of gun shots in another part of the city. It’s true to say many of us were a little nervous at that moment, including myself.
You relayed information to various news sites. How did that come about, and how did you gather information amidst the chaos?
Even whilst we were en route to the location, my phone was being called by international media, BBC, SkyNews, CNN, NPR. I had not reached out to any of them, but my number is listed as the radio station contact point, which is how they found me I guess. By this point I was receiving many WhatsApp messages from Barcelona friends and other presenters from the radio, including our Saturday night house music host, Dan McKie, who only just missed being hit by the white van.
The Spanish news sites of La Vanguardia and El País proved useful, as did the Twitter feed from @mossos. Various graphic videos of the aftermath were shared with me but never published, out of respect for the victims.
What has the general mood in Barcelona been like since?
Reports confirm that Younes Abouyaaqoub, the driver of the white van, was shot by police in Subirats on Monday, 21 August, but the police investigation continues. The remains of Abdelbaki Es Satty, the imam considered to be a central orchestrator of the attacks, have been found in the rubble of the house in Alcanar, and it has been confirmed that he shared a prison cell with Rachid Aglif, one of the train bombers in Madrid in 2004. He also spent three months in Brussels during the period of the attacks there.
I have been contacted by several friends who were planning on coming for vacation here, (including from Luxembourg), some of whom were having second thoughts. I can confirm the city is virtually back to normal and the security presence is very high, but the city is quieter than normal, especially in the evenings.
I understand people’s concern about their personal security, but I will be walking up and down Las Ramblas without hesitation and looking forward to welcoming friends in the next few weeks.
Jim Kent lived in Luxembourg from 2008-2015 when he was founder and MD of TheInsiders, a financial public relations agency, and also in 2001-2006, when he was a breakfast presenter and MD of ARACityRadio.