Wednesday, March 17, 2004

An eyewitness to Madrid's agony

Your voice: Cindy Harrison

Election weekend here in Madrid has come and gone, and (roommate) Carrie and I are safe and sound! Last week was the strangest and most difficult week we've had here.

Cindy Harrison, a graduate of McNicholas High School and a Spanish major at Marshall University, is studying in Madrid. Here are excerpts from an e-mail to her family in Anderson Township on the recent events in Spain.
As I left for school Thursday I knew there had been bombs in Atocha, but was thinking that it was similar to other recent bombings, which have usually been foiled and result in few, if any, mortalities. I got on the metro without fear. However, once I got to school, it became obvious this was a big event.

We discussed the event in my first class, but no one had any idea yet of its magnitude, and our professor, like all other Spaniards I talked to, blamed the attack on ETA, a terrorist group from the province of Pais Vasco that has killed around 850 people since the 1970s. However, the group has been getting weaker. This is why I thought it strange that everyone automatically blamed ETA.

Although the event was probably less horrific than Sept. 11, Spain is a smaller country than we are, so I think it hit them just as hard. But the solidarity of the people really came out that day as well. Bus drivers volunteered their vehicles as makeshift ambulances, people in the neighborhood went out to comfort families, retired doctors and psychologists were helping wherever they could. Spanish TV is a lot more graphic than ours, so the images that appeared were really awful. Maybe the saddest thing I saw on TV was a little girl whose mother was near death in a hospital, and nobody knew who the girl was.

The next day I went with some friends to a peace march and rally. It was raining all day, but that didn't deter 2.3 million people in Madrid from gathering to protest. There were so many people that after an hour we didn't even reach the starting point.

Sunday I went to Atocha and took pictures of the memorial, but I didn't feel right about going to take pictures of the train. Also, more evidence started to come out that the bombings were linked to al-Qaida, and it was election day. The ruling party was supposed to win, but its support of the United States in Iraq has been criticized by a huge majority of Spaniards. Many voted for the Socialists, who ended up winning. I now live in a country governed by Socialists! I never thought that would happen.

It is kind of crazy to be here right now, because I'm not sure what Spaniards will think of Americans. I'd like to think they would feel closer to us, that we've gone through the same thing, but maybe they're just going to see this as our fault.

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