Elizabeth Nash: Lingering pain of a scarred and traumatised nation

Share

The bombs that shattered the lives of commuters hurrying to work that crisp spring morning fell like a hatchet upon Spain, gouging a wound that traumatised the nation.

To those used to Madrid's high-decibel society, it was like living with the volume turned to mute. And even when it seemed life had returned to normal, that terrible day kept swinging back to strike another blow: the state funeral was a frigid mockery of protocol, redeemed only by Queen Sofia who embraced the weeping families one by one.

A parliamentary inquiry ended up as a point-scoring slanging match. Pilar Manjon, the spokeswoman for victims' families, something of a Madonna figure in her grief for her son, told politicians: "You are acting like children in a playground. You should be ashamed." They were, for a time.

Anniversaries came round, charged with reminiscences; people kept leaving candles, flowers and notes in gigantic improvised shrines at the affected railway stations. Eventually, authorities cleared them away, saying station employees found the relics emotionally overpowering.

Permanent memorials were established, a garden of remembrance in the Retiro Park, a glass monument in Atocha station, each moment reviving the trauma, while trying to salve it.

When London was shaken by similar terrorist blasts in July 2005, Spaniards mourned anew. A neighbour, never particularly friendly before, grasped my hands and said she understood my compatriots' feelings and shared my grief, as if I had lost a family member. Spaniards cannot forget the attack on their city but not just because of its emotional impact. In this politically attuned society, many believe the conservative government's alliance with George Bush in the unpopular war in Iraq provoked the attack.

Many insist equally intensely that the war had nothing to do with it. The Madrid bombings, three days before general elections on 14 March had a huge political fallout. In those three tumultuous days, when it became clear that Islamist radicals and not – as the government insisted – Eta separatists were to blame, popular opinion shifted dramatically. Jose Luis Rodrigo Zapatero's Socialists defeated the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar and the new government's first act was to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Aznar's People's Party felt cheated of victory, and many Spaniards reckon it has yet to adjust to opposition. The political atmosphere was poisoned, with the investigation of the bombings tainted by accusations of party bias. As a result, victims and many ordinary people felt their emotions and their desire for justice manipulated by a divided political class and noisy media. Socialist sympathisers felt the conservatives blamed Zapatero for robbing them of victory that should have been theirs. In extreme cases, resentment twisted into a suspicion that Zapatero was somehow responsible for the bombings, that he must have known about it in advance.

The PP has not stopped bashing Zapatero from the moment he took office, even refusing to co-operate on anti-terrorism, a policy which previous governments always tried to settle by consensus. They berated him for approaching Eta for a deal, then blamed him when talks broke down.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn