For Sandra Iglesias, the biggest adventure of her life was just getting under way. Yesterday she and her fiance Andres had planned to put down a deposit on the flat that was to be their home. But Sandra was one of nearly 200 people whose hopes, dreams and fears were blown to pieces as they sat in commuter trains approaching the centre of Madrid on Thursday morning.
Sandra was "such a sweet girl, outgoing, friendly, she loved little things," her cousin Oscar said yesterday through his tears. She was travelling in the carriage that was ripped to pieces by bombs just before it reached Atocha station.
It was the same train she had caught every day for the past five years from her home in Torrejon de Ardoz, the suburb of Madrid where she was brought up. That had been her routine ever since she found a job as a secretary to a building firm on Madrid's Barcelona Avenue.
Sandra, 28, was a happy girl said her cousin, and considered herself lucky. She had a job, a happy personal life, and the couple were making plans for a home of their own. The flat was tiny, contracts had yet to be exchanged, but money for the deposit had been raised.
You wonder what she was thinking of when the train was drawing into her destination. Her new flat? Her future life as a married woman?
Her elder sister Maria del Val, doesn't know anything of her little sister's final moments and doesn't want to think about them. "When we heard about the attack we didn't even want to see the television," she says.
Sandra's father, 67, a retired former employee of the Iberia airline, and her 65 year-old mother can't bear to think of what happened to their lovely daughter. They want to remember her as she was. A young woman, who loved music, going to the cinema, life. This weekend Sandra will be buried in Ambite, her mother's village. Her tomb will lie alongside that of her eldest sister - who died in 1991 in a traffic accident.
Patricia Rzack was six months old, blonde with blue eyes and wearing a gold bracelet on her wrist with her name inscribed on it. On Thursday, she travelled with her parents in one of the trains that was bombed. When the trucks flew into the air, when everything dissolved into a nightmare of smoke, stench and screams of horror, Patricia was thrown across the track on to a platform, alone.
Her wounded body was found lying on the ground by a doctor from the Gregorio Marañon Hospital who was taking the train to work. He plucked her up in his arms and took her as quickly as he could to the Baby Jesus Children's Hospital.
Doctors took the infant from him and put her into intensive care: Patricia had had her chest crushed from the blast. She was seriously ill. She was given assisted breathing and, above the mask that enclosed her tiny face, her frightened eyes did nothing but cry.
No one claimed the tragedy's youngest victim throughout the whole day, while the infant fought for her life. Yesterday morning, she died. Her mother Jolanda, 28, was found hours later in another hospital, seriously injured. Her father, a Romanian immigrant of 34, never appeared. Late yesterday, Jolanda's sister came to sit at her bedside before continuing the search for her brother-in-law. "We don't know where he is. They should have been all together in Atocha [station]. He's not in any of the hospitals. Now the only thing I want to do is find him - if you know what I mean."
Jose Antonio Nsang takes a double-decker commuter train from the working-class suburb of El Pozo every weekday.
On Thursday, he drove his 22-year-old girlfriend, Maria Duran, to work because she had been rostered on to an early morning shift at her job as a nurse. The mundane change in their routine was to save their lives.
Yesterday the 37-year-old auditor travelled to the railway to view the bombed-out wreckage of his local station.
"It was a coincidence," Mr Nsang said, holding his girlfriend's hand for comfort as they waited outside the station.
Students arriving at the Ciudad de Valencia secondary school had a defiant message for the bombers yesterday. A banner held aloft during a demonstration by pupils said: "No To Terrorism".
The school is just 500m from the Santa Eugenia train station - one of the targets of Thursday's attacks. The mother of at least one student was killed and another two were injured. An ex-pupil and the brother of a current pupil were also hurt.
The grief was even worse at the neighbouring primary school where, from among the 900 pupils, at least five have lost a parent. Another lost both parents and the parents of another are still missing.
Classes though not officially suspended have turned into ways of coping. Staff and pupils have been working through their grief writing messages and poems to the dead and injured. In the school's nursery, the youngest children stamped their handprints in white paint on the outside wall of the school, and around the station where several black banners covered in white handprints were displayed.
Hector Figueroa, 33, came from Chile with his wife, Angelica, 27, eight months ago to settle in Madrid. The family lived in Vallecas, a traditional working-class area of the capital and, on Thursday, he took the train as usual to the construction site where he worked as a labourer.
Mr Figueroa was no unskilled worker but a master plasterer, a skilled craftsman. His ambition was to set up a workshop in Madrid for fellow Chileans and other Latin American immigrants to perfect their craft in the new land of their dreams.
Susana Maldonado, another Chilean recently arrived, came yesterday morning to formally identify Mr Figueroa at the makeshift mass mortuary set up in an exhibition centre. She had worked with Mr Figueroa and other immigrant Chileans in the association of Chileans in Spain.
"We were friends," Ms Maldonado said, wiping her eyes. "He was so lively and positive and such an encouragement to all of us here. It's so hard to be so far from your home across the world in a strange land. And so many of us were caught, more than 60 immigrants died."
Mrs Figueroa was still in shock and not talking to anybody. She worked, as many Latin American immigrant women do when they arrive here, looking after someone else's child, even though the couple had a seven-year-old son.
Many immigrants without documentation who have lost a loved one have been too frightened to approach the mortuary for fear they will be expelled. The government announced that all victims and their close families would be given Spanish nationality. Radio announcements urged: "Please do approach the authorities if you have lost someone close to you, you have nothing to fear." And Mr Aznar said yesterday "no one should feel unprotected, whatever their situation, origin or nationality".
Rex Feder, 18, lost his life by being 20 minutes late. The teenager, born in Madrid of Philippine parents, missed his usual train to work. He caught the following one. The train blew up and he never arrived.
His parents spent all Thursday going from hospital to hospital trying to find him. By lunchtime yesterday they found him. In the mortuary. The family recognised him only by his tattoo.
Jeanette Llanga was weary and impatient as she and her sister Gisela arrived at a makeshift mortuary on the outskirts of Madrid yesterday. It was their last stop on a 24-hour search for their missing brother and cousin.
The sisters joined hundreds of others on the same grim mission gathered at the sprawling trade fair centre.
Jeanette, 28, and 26-year-old Gisela, immigrants from Ecuador, had spent the hours after the attacks scouring the Madrid hospitals for their missing loved ones. But neither Jeanette's twin brother, Luis Gustavo, whose wife and children are in Ecuador, nor their cousin Angel, 35, could be found. Both men were on a commuter train bound for the Atocha station when the terrorists struck.
Steeling themselves for the worst, they waited on the second floor of the trade fair centre while officials brought up a list of dead from the mortuary downstairs.
"We've called the hospitals and they've told us there's no one with those names," Jeanette said. "I wanted them to be hurt, not dead."
"There are bodies that haven't been identified yet. I need to find out. I'm so worried because I don't know anything," Gisela said.
Hundreds of counsellors and volunteers handed out blankets and hot drinks to the family members, many of whom were weeping. Priests were also on hand at a chapel at the complex.
On the first floor, it was business as usual as the scheduled trade fairs went ahead. Businessmen occasionally glanced at the families on floors above.
For one relative, the search was over. Mercedes Lopezosa had been trying to locate her 31-year-old cousin and his 28-year-old wife. They had been married for only 10 months. Police had told her that they were dead, and the Madrid housewife was waiting to confirm that the bodies were at the morgue. "The bodies must be in a terrible state," she said. "It's so painful."
Juan Cruz, a psychologist stayed with the bereaved families all night on Thursday during their agonising vigil at the mortuary. He says this kind of death is the most difficult of deaths to accept because it has no justification, explanation or meaning.
"They're in shock, they're grieving, depressed, often mute with despair." There's not much he and his colleagues can really do, Mr Cruz confesses. "We can only offer them a shoulder, listen and give them a hug."
But the worst is yet to come, he says. The families he was seeing yesterday were beginning to emerge from their stunned paralysis. "They are coming through their initial shock. Then comes the process of denial, which is our psychological response to cope with reality.
"Then comes the phase of anger, then feelings of guilt. Then a deep sadness, and later, the process of adaptation and acceptance of reality." So soon after the tragedy this painful psychological journey of mourning has barely begun.
THE RED CROSS WORKER
Miguel Angel Rodriguez of the Red Cross is concerned too about the mental well-being of his own professionals.
He explained the grim procedure when people arrived seeking news of missing relatives. "We don't have a list of the dead. Only the injured. If the name they give us is not among the injured, they are taken into a small room to be with the rest of their family and they are offered the services of a psychiatrist," he said.
Often they try to shield or protect the families from the physical trauma of what faces them. "Many of the volunteer psychologists have spent all morning amidst half open body bags or incomplete cadavers. Some have only a hand remaining. None the less, some of the families insist on seeing the remains of their loved ones, however gruesome, because otherwise they don't believe it."
The process whereby the families finally take recognition of their loved ones can be long, drawn out, Mr Rodriguez said. "It can take hours. People cling on to the last possible hope and that keeps them in control of themselves. But occasionally people just let rip with terrible explosions of grief."
THE ETA VICTIM
Irene Vila lost both legs in an ETA attack in 1991. But Thursday's events proved even more painful. It was "the most terrible day of my life - worse even, than when I was attacked," she said.
Ms Villa - then a young child - and her mother, Maria Jesus Gonzalez, were severely injured by a car bomb planted by the Basque separatists in the Aluche district of Madrid 13 years ago.
Yesterday, she spent the day talking with relatives and friends of the victims. "I have come to express my support," she said. "It is the least I could do."
Now a psychology student she said: "Families are destroyed ... there were many terrible faces and many children crying."
Recalling her own attack she said: "I knew that my mother would be alive and the horror would have passed."
Thursday had brought all the pain and memories of her own attack flooding back. "I have suffered the hardest blow of my life," she said. "My wish is that Eta finishes and all types of terrorism finish. I woke up yesterday to the news and could not find the will to move all day. Today I had to come to do something."
The four sons of 60-year-old Alicia Cano Martinez, spent all day searching for their mother. In mounting desperation they went from hospital to hospital, without finding her in any of them. Her name was on none of the lists of killed or injured.
Finally at six o'clock yesterday morning, they found her body in a mortuary set up in a city business park.
Alicia's story was like so many of her fellow vicitms. She had set off for her work as a social worker on Thursday as she did every morning. She alighted the train just as the explosion ripped through the packed carriages. The dead woman's four brothers yesterday travelled from her home village of Cieza in the south- eastern province of Murcia to be at her funeral. A demonstration was being planned to take place in the village last night.
Chef Lennox Hastie, 25, who works at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Oxfordshire, was on a working trip to Spain and was due to catch a train from Atocha to Seville yesterday morning.
"We were in the main station, actually just going down to the platforms to catch our train to Seville," he said yesterday.
"There is a big glass viewing platform and I was right by there. At the first explosion, no one actually had any realisation it was anything to do with bombing.
"The glass vibrated and everybody was very apprehensive, but everyone continued with what they were doing. Five or six minutes (later), there were further explosions and people realised something was wrong.
"There wasn't much direction from the people that were in the station. We started going towards the exit and some people hadn't realised at all and some people were still going into the station."
Once outside, he said, the police started moving passengers along.
"Everyone was moving in the same direction. As soon as we hit the main street outside, there was a flood of people coming from other directions and there was mass panic - they thought there was going to be another."
No one in his party was injured in the blast, and he said they counted themselves among the lucky ones: "We saw a guy running past with blood running down his face. We were the lucky ones. Considering where we were standing we could have been down on the platform - we were delayed with one of our party by 10 to 15 minutes."
THE DEAD: Latest figures put the toll at 199. This is expected to rise because about 60 people are still in critical condition.
NUMBER OF INJURED: Currently 1,430. Many have lost limbs and will suffer permanent physical and mental damage.
VICTIMS FROM ABROAD: Foreign nationals confirmed killed were from Peru (3), Poland (2), Honduras (2), Chile (1), Cuba (1), France (1), Ecuador (1), Morocco (1) Guinea-Bissau (1) and Colombia (1).
Hospitals: Exhausted staff treat the injured
By Terry Kirby
Hundreds of off-duty medical staff, civil servants, Red Cross officials and counsellors turned out across Madrid yesterday to assist their 1,300 exhausted colleagues who had spent the night identifying the dead and treating the wounded at the city's hospitals.
Last night, more than 36 hours after the bombs ripped through packed commuter trains, the huge scale of the tragedy was underlined by the fact that 300 people were still being treated in nine hospitals across the city, which had been working at full stretch since Thursday morning.
While hundreds of injured had been patched up and sent home, many of those still being treated were said to be in critical condition, suggesting that the death toll was likely to rise further.
Although crowds at the hospitals had diminished yesterday, some who had been unable to locate their loved ones moved from hospital to hospital scanning the lists of patients. Others simply waited for news.
Hospital authorities turned away would-be blood donors after services were swamped by thousands of residents eager to help.
"There were huge queues at a mobile donation unit in the Puerta del Sol square," said the actress Laura Inclan. "I was turned away even though I have blood of the rare B-group."
In the vast Ifema trade fair centre an impromptu morgue had been established. A team of 40 experts from the coroner's office worked with police to identify bodies and piece together human remains. Dental and DNA records were being used, but about 30 remained unidentified last night. Some had been identified when doctors answered the ringing mobile phones of the dead.
Hundreds of counsellors and Red Cross volunteers handed out blankets and hot drinks to those waiting, while priests were on hand in the centre's small chapel.
So many volunteer therapists turned up that their professional association asked the remainder to stay at home.
Forensics: Identifying the victims
By Steve Connor
The grim task of trying to identify the more severely damaged victims of the Madrid explosions will begin with a careful search of personal effects found at the scene.
These will give investigators the initial leads that may allow them to identify any named persons who have been listed as missing. Each unidentified body will be X-rayed and catalogued, as much for administrative and forensic reasons than for positive identification.
From partial skeletons, forensic pathologists will attempt to gauge the person's age, height and sex from thigh bones and pelvis. Badly burned skulls can still be used to identify ethnic background.
Facial identification - the easiest way to put a name to a victim - may not be possible in all instances but dental records, if they exist, should provide a positive link with a known missing person.
Two years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York there were still some 12,000 body parts - the remains of more than 1,000 victims - that had not been positively identified.
Forensic specialists in Madrid will probably have to resort to DNA fingerprinting to match tissue samples found in the wreckage with any missing persons.
To facilitate identification, friends and relatives may be asked to provide personal effects of the missing people that may contain remnants of DNA - such as toothbrushes or combs.
Scientists are likely to use a form of DNA fingerprinting that tests the genetic material found in tiny biological structures - called mitochondria - which are found within the cells of the body.
Mitochrondrial DNA is inherited solely via the maternal line, so matches are usually made with the help of saliva samples taken from mothers.
Identifying the body or body parts of a victim will be crucial to help family members overcome the distress of losing a loved one.Reuse content