Saturday, March 11, 2006

An Eventful Day

Today, March 11, 2006, I did nothing. I mean, I didn't even go outside. Well, okay, actually I did do some stuff. I wrote a scholarship essay, cleaned out my desk drawers, stuff for which I would generally applaud myself. I was too ridiculously bored, however, to do much applauding.

It was not until this evening, during dinner, that I realized the significant things that had been going on in the world while I was sitting in my room going crazy. In fact, two post-worthy things happened.

First of all, today is the second anniversary of the terrorist bombing of two Madrid metro trains. It was during morning rush hour, and everybody uses the metro to get to work or school or whatever. Both trains were headed towards one of the large stations, Atocha, but both were running late, so the bombs exploded before they got to the station. This meant that fewer people died, but the toll was still tragic (i don't at the moment know the exact number). I can't imagine the fear that everyone in Madrid must have felt - the metro is one of those things, that everyone uses, that is completely a part of life. I think the feeling of vulnerability must have been overwhelming. One of my professors told us that she knows someone who was involved in the rescue effort that day, and that he said one of the most striking things was the sound, coming from the dead bodies, of cell phones ringing. Everybody in the city was calling their loved ones to find out if they were okay. The people died but the cell phones made it.

Though this would have been a tradedy on any day, it was made even worse by the fact that it happened three days before the 2004 general elections. The party that was then in power, the conservative Partido Popular, was expected to win the election hands down. During the days after the attack, they were very vocal in their accusation of ETA, the Basque separatist terrorist group. According to my señora (who is admittedly a supporter of the PP), they had recently apprehended a van belonging to ETA that contained explosives, and so had reason to believe that they were responsible. However, as more evidence surfaced, it began to look like it was a Muslim extremist group, not ETA. Due to the perceived mishandling of the situation and false accusation of ETA, the Partido Popular lost the election to the PSOE, which is the Spanish socialist party.

Now, the true explanation has yet to be uncovered. Again according to my señora's summary (I can't understand the news very well so I have to depend on subjective simplifications), the further evidence that was uncovered only served to confuse things, rather than resolve them. She says there has been evidence linked to both ETA and a Muslim extremist group. To my señora's chagrin, the PSOE government has closed the investigation. (A couple of weeks ago she went to a demonstration in support of victims of terrorism. I am not sure if that is specifically related to this or not.) Anyway, it is obviously a national tragedy, felt particularly deeply here in Madrid. They refer to it as 11-M, in the same manner as Americans refer to 9/11. There were commemorative events all over the city today. So anyway, that is the first important thing about today.

The second important thing that happend today is that Michelle Bachelet was inaugurated as president in Chile. She is the first female president of a conservative Catholic country that has a history of machismo, and she also happens to be agnostic, and separated, with two children who she raises on her own. Talk about unexpected. I would like to remind everyone now that we have NEVER had a female president in the US, nor an openly non-Christian one (ok I didn't look that one up so if I am wrong don't shoot me). Bachelet was also tortured and exiled under Pinochet after her father, a general who was not in on the whole coup d'etats, was tortured and killed. So now that she is President of the country over which he once ruled, I would say that it is a more than symbolic victory over his cruel regime and its aftereffects.

So, despite my personally uneventful day, things did actually happen in the world. Nice to keep things in perspective that way.


At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Mom said...

I'm still in shock that you cleaned out your desk drawers!

At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Grandma said...

You gave us a most interesting history lesson, which was very eventful for us! Also, any time someone tries to get a scholarship I say "More power to them"


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