“11M” is something that you might see several times today, the anniversary of 11 March in 2004, when 192 commuters were blown to their deaths and around 2,000 others injured in Madrid’s Atocha station bombings when some ten bombs exploded on four suburban trains at or near the central station. And every 11 March Spain records the tragic anniversary of its worst terrorist attack, still the worst terrorist attack on European soil to date.
The 2007 trial of the suspects found that it was an Islamic terrorist attack carried out in the name of Al Qaeda. It happened, however, just three days before a general election and so the PP (Conservative) Government of the time tried to blame the Basque nationalist group ETA because they knew how much the public had opposed Spain’s support of George Bush’s war in Iraq, and how many had said that it would trigger just such an attack. The Government’s attempt to finger ETA was not believed, though, and the PSOE (Socialists) swept to victory just a few days later in a fury of national outrage at the attack and the PP’s attempt to lie its way out of trouble to steal the election.
All that immediate political and legal aftermath is now fading into history but the memory of the attacks is still raw, and will always leave deep scars on Spain’s psyche. People will today be gathering at the 11m-high crystal monument outside Atocha station and at the nearby memorial park, the Forest of Remembrance – Bosque del Recuerdo – with olives and cypresses, one for each victim. Further afield too people will be remembering, and anyone doing an internet search in Spain will see that Google has added a black ribbon to its Spanish search page.