Spain falls silent in memory of Madrid victims

11th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 March 2005, MADRID-Spain fell silent for five minutes in memory of the 191 people who died in Madrid a year ago when terrorists blew up four commuter trains in the worst attack in the country's history.

11 March 2005

MADRID-Spain fell silent for five minutes in memory of the 191 people who died in Madrid a year ago when terrorists blew up four commuter trains in the worst attack in the country's history.

The mood was solemn in the capital. Traffic stopped and people emerged from their cars and offices and stood together silently on street corners at midday.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero laid a white wreath at a park of remembrance in central Madrid where 192 olive and cypress trees mark a lasting  tribute to the victims, and to a policeman who in early April during a raid on a suspect's flat.

The day of mourning had begun at sunrise, when church bells tolled at 7:37 am- the exact moment of the blasts.

At the railway stations struck by the bombers a year ago, thousands of commuters went about their daily routine, but they were joined by others who were there to remember, and to grieve.

"We have come here because there are so many people who cannot," a woman said as she wept at El Pozo station while clinging tightly to the arm of her husband Enrique.

He was among the 1,900 injured in attacks. He still bears the scars, his head bandaged from yet another operation carried out this week.

Juana Leal, who was widowed by the attacks, placed flowers and lit two candles on the platform of the station in the working class area, one of three that was struck by the bombers.

"I heard the explosion, I phoned his mobile phone and he no longer answered," Leal said, recalling the day her husband died.
Zapatero's government, which came to power three days after the blasts, had asked workplaces to fall silent and for employees to remember the attacks, blamed on Moroccan extremists linked to the Al-Qaeda network.

Many Spaniards believe the bombs were laid in retaliation for the previous government's support of the US-led war in Iraq.

Just before midday a commuter at the packed Atocha station, near where bombs exploded on two trains, said he believed the country had become safer since Zapatero last year made good on an electoral promise to pull Spain's troops out of Iraq.

"I still feel a sense of indignation. It was a surprise when it happened, I just did not think that terrorists could do this in my city ... since we withdrew our troops from Iraq, I think the Islamic threat has receded," Ricardo Oliva said.

Earlier, as sunrise bathed the Madrid skyline in golden light, the capital's church bells rang out for five minutes. The slow, solemn gongs echoed along streets, and were broadcast by all television and radio stations.

On public transport, many commuters sat bowed over newspapers bearing the message that Spain would never forget the victims of the attacks, which have become known everywhere in Spanish as "11-M" and which clearly still haunt the country a year later.

"The open wound," was how El Pais summed up the emotion in a caption alongside a photograph of a railway line glinting in the sun, while on the back page the daily listed the "191 lives broken".

"Silence and pain," was the business daily Expansion's stark headline, while Cinco Dias opted for "the memory of pain."

For some the poignancy of the moment was hard to bear.

"The same train, the same day. It is not a good feeling," a middle-aged woman commuter told Spanish television reporters.

At midday, trains across Spain pulled into the nearest station for five minutes as flashing signs in stations explained the interruption to passengers.

A middle-aged man named Manuel said he believed it was time for Spaniards to move on: "I am trying not to think about it too much, I think the best thing is to put it out of our minds."

Amid the lasting emotional trauma, many of the relatives eschewed the official celebrations to mourn the loss of their loved ones in private.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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