Sharing Spain’s sorrow at U

When Fernando Rubio learned of the terror attacks that killed 202 people and injured 1,400 more in a rash of train bombings in Madrid on March 11, the emotions that followed felt painfully familiar.

“The second time around, it hurts even more. It’s hard to believe that after Sept. 11, things like this can still happen so easily,” said Rubio, a professor of Spanish in the department of languages and literature and program director of the U’s summer study-abroad program in Spain.

Rubio, who spent 30 years in his native country before moving to the United States a decade ago, spent the early morning hours of March 12 making sure his family in Madrid was safe.

They were.

“I tried to call my family for a half-hour, but I guess all the lines were tied up. It was tough, but that old saying that no news is good news kept running through my head,” he said.

Six students from the U’s study-abroad program in Spain at the time of the bombing were safe and accounted for in the wake of the bombings, Study-Abroad Coordinator Aaron Rose said.

Rose, who was 330 miles away in the southern Spanish city of Seville when the bombs went off, said the attack sent shockwaves across the country.

“It was a different feeling from 9/11. I didn’t feel that sense of panic in Spain. It was more an overwhelming sense of shock and grief,” he said.

If it’s possible for a nation twice the size of Oregon to ever feel small, it felt that way the day after, Rose said.

“Everyone met together as communities and said, ‘Tonight we’re all mourning as fellow citizens of Madrid,'” Rose said.

Though the destruction has left Madrid and Spain itself reeling, it hasn’t deterred students from staying away.

Of the 40 students the summer study-abroad program has accepted to travel to Spain this summer, just one has withdrawn his name, Rubio said.

“I thought we’d see a lot of people start dropping out, but we’ve only had that one so far,” Rubio said.

Although Spanish police have arrested 14 suspects since the attacks and have linked them to an alleged Spanish al Qaida cell, Spain study-abroad program assistant Olga Jimenez-Bailess has feelings of her own.

“I was surprised to hear al Qaida’s name. It wasn’t 100 percent them. I’m convinced ETA had something to do with this,” Jimenez-Bailess said.

ETA, a Basque separatist group established in 1978, has been tied to several terrorist attacks in Spain, including the near-assassination of Spain’s prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, in 1995, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Two weeks before the March 11 bombings, Spanish police seized and detained two vans bound for Spain containing explosives later linked to the group.

Though Rubio now believes the bombings were masterminded by al-Qaida, he wouldn’t be surprised to find ETA somehow involved, he said.

“Too many things point to them…ETA has been attacking Spain for the last 30 years,” he said.

For Jimenez-Bailess, who hails from the coastal village of Alcala de Henares-just 18.6 miles away from Madrid and the origin of the four trains-there was nothing to do but hope.

“You feel pretty incompetent because you can’t do anything. My mom has to get on that train every morning,” she said.

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