The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Spain reacts to Madrid bombing

SMU Diary: Spring Break trip turns into a chilling experience

SMU Diary is an occasional feature in which a student shareshis/her unusual Hilltop experience.

 

I was in Madrid on Thursday March 11, 2004. My friends had justleft for the airport, and not being able to get a ticket on thesame flight, I was left in the country by myself another day. Iturned on the hotel television, and my worst fear had beenrealized.

Madrid was suffering the result from widespread terroristattacks three days before their presidential elections, and theydidn’t yet know who was responsible.

At 7:30 that morning, three simultaneous explosions rocked acommuter train near Atocha train station, six metro stops away frommy hotel, in the heart of Madrid. Later, three other bombs explodedon other trains in other parts of the city. Spain’sgovernment originally blamed ETA, a political separatist group thathad been caught with explosives earlier that week.

Upon hearing the news, I attempted to find a computer and e-mailmy family in the states to let them know I was OK. The six- hourtime difference meant that it was still only 4 a.m at home, and myparents had not yet started to worry. Of course, every availablecomputer in the city was occupied with people with the samethought, and I wasn’t able to contact my family until almostfour o’clock that afternoon.

Under the impression that the explosions were the responsibilityof a Spanish political party, I felt safe to explore the city as Ihad originally intended. I took the metro to the Prado Museum. Not10 minutes into my visit, alarms went off throughout the museum,and we were instructed by personnel to immediately leave thebuilding. Fearing another explosion, I listened in on nearbyconversations to try to find someone that spoke English. Finally, Ilearned that Madrid was respecting a city-wide moment of silence atnoon, and the museum employees wanted to take part. I stood in alarge group of people outside the museum in silence, and 10 minuteslater, filed back inside.

Not being able to speak Spanish, very well my choices inactivities to fill my afternoon by myself were limited. I knew howto get around using the metro, so I decided to go see Atocha trainstation — the site of the original explosions.

The site was similar to what New York City experienced afterSept. 11. While the area of the explosion had been partitioned offby police, out of sight, news cameras, curious onlookers andmourners filled the streets. Oddly enough, there wasn’t afeeling of terrible sadness in the crowd, just one of shock anddisbelief.

I returned to my hotel room to get the latest on what washappening from the television. Turning to a local news station, Imanaged to decipher that there was a large demonstration going onin the Plaza del Sol. I grabbed my camera and hopped on themetro.

When I arrived at the plaza that afternoon, protestors swarmedthe area. They carried banners in objection to ETA and chanted inunison against the political party. Hundreds of people raised theirhands in protest, their palms painted white to show their supportof peace. Television crews had followed the story and set upmakeshift scaffolding in the middle of the crowd. Nobody paid verymuch attention to me, and I climbed the bottom rung to tookpictures of the crowd.

Since I left Madrid, al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for thebombings. One hundred and ninety civilians died that day, mostlycommuters and university students on their way to school, and over1,400 were injured from the blasts.

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