On the morning of 11th of March 2004 I didn’t hear the bombs that blew apart three carriages of a commuter train in Madrid’s Atocha station, even though I was living nearby. I’d just had soundproof new windows installed in my flat and the noise of the blasts didn’t reach me. However, the terrorist attack, which killed 193 people, did shape how I saw Spain, a country I had moved to just a few months earlier.
As the anniversary of that attack comes round again, it’s impossible not to recall the human tragedy of that day. But 18 years on, it’s also hard to ignore the tremendous damage the political response to the attack did to Spanish democracy, with repercussions which can still be felt today.
Before the pandemic, I was invited to take part as an interviewee in a documentary on the 2004 attack. A couple of weeks ago I was honoured to be invited to a cinema screening of the film, ’11M: Terror in Madrid’, which was directed by José Gómez, for relatives of victims and others involved in the making of it. The film is now available for viewing on Netflix and it is a superb piece of filmmaking, giving voice to victims with compassion and discretion. It also explains the horrific logistics and backstory to the attacks with a clarity that even the most mulish conspiracy theorist would struggle to contest. I talk about the film and the broader problems sown by the events of 18 years ago here.