Madrid Victims Try to Rebuild Their Lives
Madrid Victims Try to Rebuild Their Lives
Mar. 07, 2006
MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Laura Jimenez was walking on air as she boarded a Madrid train early on the morning of March 11, 2004. She had just been told she was pregnant with her first child and had received a promotion at work. In a matter of seconds, it was all taken away.
One of the 10 bombs that ripped through four packed commuter trains that day was in Jimenez's car _ killing the baby she was carrying and leaving her paralyzed. She spent nearly a year in the hospital, becoming the last of more than 1,500 people wounded in the bombings to be released.
``I've lost an entire life. Now I have to start another one that is completely different,'' the 30-year-old Jimenez told The Associated Press at the wheelchair-adapted apartment where she lives with her boyfriend, Gabi. ``I probably had too much going for me.''
As Spain prepares a low-key remembrance Saturday on the second anniversary of the bombings, which killed 191 people, victims like Jimenez are struggling to pick up the pieces of their lives.
Islamic militants claimed responsibility for Spain's worst terrorist attack, saying they acted on behalf of al-Qaida to avenge the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq.
When Jimenez was pulled from the wreckage, doctors told her family she probably would not live more than four hours.
The shock wave from the explosion caused her body to swell horribly, destroyed half her nose and seriously damaged her lungs and spine. Her family recognized her only through her teeth and a mole on her forehead. She spent eight days in a coma.
``When I woke up at the hospital, first I found out that I had lost my baby and that I was going to be in a wheelchair for life. But what really shocked me was to find out that it was all because of a terrorist attack,'' she said.
She says that when she found out she could not eat, wash or dress by herself, she wanted to die.
``I told myself then, 'I don't want to go on like this,' and if I could have, I would have taken my life,'' she said. Her family brought her newspaper clippings with photos of those who had died in the bombings to help persuade her to live.
Jimenez's boyfriend was also deeply affected by the attacks. He had to take a year's leave of absence from work due to depression, something he hid from her until recently to protect her. She says his support has helped her immensely as she struggles to gain back what she lost.
In the past two years, Jimenez has undergone seven operations, attended painful rehabilitation sessions to regain movement in her legs and relearn how to dress herself and drive a specially adapted car.
Still, she says it's hard to put the horror behind her.
She won't go out alone and shuns photos that remind her of her old life. She threw out all her old clothes and bought new ones. ``I don't want to wear something from a dead person,'' she says, referring to the person she was before the blasts.
Raul Nehama, a psychologist who treats dozens of March 11 victims, says the suffering is far from over for most survivors.
``Two years later, the pain is still fresh for the victims,'' Nehama said. Many survivors, he says, are overwhelmed by persistent problems _ nightmares, sleeplessness and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder _ in addition to medical ailments, disabilities that keep them from working and strained family ties.
Angeles Pedraza lost her 25-year-old daughter Miryam in the bombings and says the pain is worse now than ever.
Sitting in her living room, the walls and bookcase are crowded with pictures and paintings of her blue-eyed daughter _ Miryam as a child, Miryam as a teenager, Miryam at her wedding, smiling down at the family that has survived her.
``I'm more aware of what happened now. I miss her more. I feel more anger and more powerlessness,'' said Pedraza, fiddling with a chain holding some of her daughter's rings.
Pedraza says she has tried to find out everything she can about what happened, no matter how much it hurts. She's asked to see her daughter's autopsy report.
``I need to know if she suffered when she died,'' she says.
Nehama said victims and families affected by the blast were buoyed at first by the spontaneous outpouring of sympathy from Spanish society. But many now are angry by how quickly their countrymen seem to have put the attack behind them.
The country is planning five minutes of silence and a wreath-laying ceremony Saturday to mark the anniversary, a far cry from last year when a high-profile anti-terrorism conference was held in Madrid and dignitaries from around the world were invited to attend remembrances.
``The feeling that they've been forgotten is very painful'' for the victims, Nehama said.