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Articles, Europe, Spain

The last time I wrote on this site was about alcoholism and an experience of my first job with a new company.

Since then I've probably travelled to Paris about three times, Munich, Florence and spent last week working in Madrid.
It was supposed to be a normal work trip away; Fly in, start work in the afternoon and then have two days to complete for a show starting on the 11th March 2004.

The build went ok, a couple of problems but nothing that couldn't be overcome. We met the client, chatted and were informed of the elections on Sunday.

11th March, first day of show which ran from 10:00am to 9:00pm so we didn't have to be in too early.
We woke to the news, BBC World which is the only English speaking channel available at the hotel, switching it on after the events that had taken place at 7:30am that morning.

10 Bomb blasts had taken place in the space of 4-5 mins. We looked at the set, stunned as we hadn't heard any noise from our location of the city. We took a taxi to the venue, which can only be described as similar to the NEC Birmingham.

The Fierra De Madrid is situated towards the edge of town a short ride from the airport, purpose built for events and exhibitions.
The taxi journey took about 15 minutes maximum and during the course the driver wrote down how many had died. The death toll rose from 40 odd to 90 odd in the space of the journey. By the end of the day it had risen to 150 plus and the final count in the region of 200. There were also in the region of 1240 people injured.

Our duties are to arrive, clean the stand, switch on the electrics and make sure everything is working, see the client and make sure they're happy.
There were local Spanish people manning the stand. It was awkward and the bombing wasn't spoken about. Our main client was an American who had lived in Madrid for 25 years. It was easier talking to him.

As we left the venue on the second morning there were ambulances, police and film crews outside the entrance awaiting the arrival of family and relatives of the victims to come and identify bodies.

One of the Halls was being used to lay out the 200 bodies as there was no-where else in Madrid to house them in one location.
Later on the news we saw the venue we were working at and saw a relative that had collapsed and needed medical attention. I couldn't feel more helpless, being a foreigner in a city where a tragedy had just taken place. I couldn't even donate blood as I had given in the UK in February.

The morning of the terrorist attack, I was determined that it wouldn't effect what we had decided to do the previous day, which was to go into the centre and have a walk around.
Being my first visit I can only imagine that it was quieter than normal, although it was March as opposed to summer, but cities are visited any time of year. There were however police and ambulance sirens sounding off at an abnormal rate which was only to be expected.

After looking round the shops we walked up to the park.
The news was dominated that day with the bombings. ETA was obviously chief suspect at first but it was left open until investigations were carried out. A stolen van had been discovered containing detonators in at a village or town out of Madrid. The explosives used were similar to that which ETA used but still no accusations were made.
Similar to our situation in the UK with Northern Ireland, the political party that had links with ETA announced ETA did not commit the terrorist act.

At 7pm the day after the attack, half the population of Spain took to the streets to denounce terrorism and violence, including the people from the Basque Region. In Madrid the line of people amassed to 18km, walking past one of the train stations where the atrocities took place.
The government announced that there was to be three days of mourning and as a mark of respect museums were closed. Shops kept open and football games were played but a one minute silence was observed before the games.

A minute's silence also took place at midday. Cars stopped and people came out of their offices onto the streets. Ironically, in a precinct the people that had stopped had to be cleared from the area due to a bomb scare.

The attack did affect the Sunday voting which the government decided should go ahead despite the events of Thursday.
The Majority of the population of Spain, I understand, did not want to support America's intervention in Iraq.

I viewed one of the Government and Politics chat rooms in yahoo on returning to the UK. I saw that some Americans were for eradicating terrorists and had a view that the Spanish people had given in to terrorism by voting in a party to government that was against such actions, which led to the reprisal which happened on the 11th March.
I can't get involved with arguments over politics today, because it would be detrimental to the program of recovery I follow. All I can observe is that despite September 11th and the twin towers, Spain lies on the continent as a part of Europe adjoining France. According the European Union, border controls should be relaxed! Allowing freer travel for citizens of the Union!

Last year I drove to Amsterdam and back transporting a stand for work. The only check that was made, apart from the paperwork when leaving Britain was when I returned through Calais which was for Illegal immigrants i.e. I travelled through France, Belgium and Holland without being checked.
America has tight immigration controls and some people's views can be a little naive.

Need I say more! Hhmm!

On the Saturday a forever-changing crowd lit candles on the window ledge, laid flowers and paid respects outside a Government building.
A crowd had gathered earlier in a daytime demonstration basically saying No To Terrorism. Despite the events, people did still go about normal Saturday tasks of shopping etc.

There was other News to report other than the Bombings.

This building, used at present as the Post-Office, was soon to become the Mayors Offices.
Once again there were slogans on banners denouncing terrorism whilst flags on all government Buildings were being flown at half mast.

There's not much more to say, in a city that had just suffered so many deaths and casualties in one day, there were contrasts to be found.
Amazement and disbelief. People carrying on with their daily work, the trains ran again the next day. We had seen people arrive and leave in tears to identify bodies.

There was peace and some semblance of normality to be found. Wherever we went there was a reminder of that morning. Practically every shop had a black ribbon in the window and almost every Building had a black ribbon on it.
You might ask why I'm writing this. Perhaps it's something I need to get out of me, being affected by being in a city that had had a terrorist attack on it while I was there.

Hopefully it has been an impartial account and a reminder that we all live with terrorism within Europe whether it comes from outside or within.
But if you read this then think of the people of Spain and especially Madrid who have suffered a great number of casualties in a short space of time.


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