The King and Queen attend a ceremony to mark the tenth anniversary of the Madrid train bombings. :: POOL/REUTERS
“Ten years ago, at this precise time, we were searching for the bodies of our loved ones in an improvised morgue,” said Pilar Manjón. She was referring to the Madrid train bombings of March 11 2004 when 192 people lost their lives in a terrorist attack. Ángeles Pedraza, whose daughter Myriam was one of the victims, thinks of it as 552 weeks or 3,652 days ago.
In the midst of so much pain on the tenth anniversary of an act of terrorism that devastated Spain, there is reason for a little hope.
Pilar Manjón and Ángeles Pedraza are the presidents of two opposing victims’ groups - the ‘Asociación 11-M’ and the ‘Asociacíon de Víctimas de Terrorismo’ - or AVT - respectively who have been at odds over the causes of the attack and the way it was handled for years. This year the two women met on Monday, in a meeting organised by the Ministry of the Interior, to put their differences behind them and ensure a united front for the sombre occasion.
At the time of the bombings, the PP government initially blamed Basque separatist group ETA for the attack, although the Spanish judiciary found guilty a cell of Islamic extremists, apparently acting in response to Spain’s involvement in the Iraq war. Controversially the attack happened three days before a general election in which the PP were expected to win and instead the PSOE took power. A raft of conspiracy theories continues to divide victims’ support groups and others.
The ceremony was held in Madrid’s Almudena cathedral and was attended by the King and Queen as well as Princess Letizia and the Infanta Elena. Most of the government were also present, led by Mariano Rajoy, including the heads of the Senate and Congress and Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, leader of the opposition.
The service was led by the Archbishop of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Varela, who drew attention to the capacity of the Spanish people to cope with the worst terrorist attack in the history of Europe. He also highlighted the courage of ‘Madrileños’, who on that day “performed a multitude of heroic, supportive and brotherly acts”.