Spain confronts difficult anniversary
13 September 2004
MADRID – Six months on from the 11 March train bombings which killed 191 people, commuters on the same routes found the anniversary a difficult time, it was reported Monday.
Day after day they travel into the capital just after seven in the morning, some passengers dozing by the window, most just reading the paper in studied silence, the rustle as they turn the pages interrupted only by a monotonous voice announcing the next stop over the intercom.
But ask them their feelings about the day that Islamic extremists bombed four trains heading into Madrid from the dormitory town of Alcala de Henares and the questioner is greeted by nervous acknowledgement of a topic which Spaniards call their 11 September after the 2001 attacks in New York.
Patricia, a 30-year-old administrative employee, was on one of the four trains targeted, getting on at Santa Eugenia on the eastern fringe of the city.
Her next memory was waking up in hospital with injuries which caused her to be off work for three months.
She speaks in measured enough fashion – but it is clear that talking about the hellish inferno she became caught up in requires a major emotional effort.
“If you start thinking about it it envelops you and drags you down. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to return to leading a normal life, take the train, go to work just as I used to and nothing more,” she says.
Maria, a 22-year-old cleaner from Romania, keeps getting flashbacks which sometimes arise after a period of months during which she surprised herself with the degree to which she appeared to have overcome the trauma.
She was on the train at El Pozo station in the east of the city in which two bombs went off.
One of them exploded at the other end of the carriage in which she was travelling.
She remembers a few seconds of thick and choking black smoke, the fire and the shouts of panic and yet she somehow got out almost unscathed.
Within days, forcing herself to overcome her fears, she was back on the early morning train to work.
But sometimes the panic attacks descend on her.
“I’ll be chatting with friends and we will have a laugh. Then, suddenly, memories of what happened will come to mind,” she explains.
Another passenger, Luis, insists he has no fears of continuing to take the train – but recognises that things will never be the same again.
“The world has changed, let’s forget what has gone before. The whole of the western world is in a state of permanent insecurity,” says the civil servant.
Then there is Victoria, 37, who elected to take the bus for a couple of months rather than the train.
Despite early advances in the investigation into the bombings, for the hundreds of people taking the same route day after day into Madrid, the memory of 11 March has barely faded and likely never will.
Subject: Spanish news