“I don’t like the word anniversary; it sounds like we are celebrating something”
Pilar Manjón, whose son died in the 11-M terrorist attacks in 2004, explains her plans to mark 10 years since the bombings
Pilar Manjón points to an enormous patchwork quilt on display at the Cervantes Institute in Madrid. “This one's mine,” she explains emotionally. “I made it with my son Daniel's clothes. I used the two sweaters of his that I liked the most, and his jeans."
Daniel Paz Manjón was 20 years old when he died in the terrorist attacks in Madrid, on March 11, 2004. He was inside the commuter train that exploded at El Pozo station.
The quilt is part of an exhibition commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks, which killed 191 people and injured 1,858. The bombings mark the second-largest terrorist attack on European soil to date. A massive trial held in 2007 found that the culprits were Islamists, although a section of society and the Spanish media has long argued that the Basque terrorist group ETA was involved. The attacks, known in Spain as 11-M, remain a deeply divisive issue at the political and social level.
Trazos y puntadas para el recuerdo. Una ventana de paz en Madrid, 10 años después (or, Sketches and stitches to remember, a window on peace in Madrid 10 years later) was organized by the 11-M Terrorism Victims Association, which is headed by Manjón and represents 1,800 victims.
Some of the murderers are about to walk out of jail, yet our children are never coming back"
The exhibition will remain open from March 11 to 16 and will include guided visits by victims of the attacks. Singer-songwriters who have written songs about the tragedy will also be performing: Abel Álvarez (on the 12th), Kike Marcos (13th), Iguana Tango (14th) and Stafas (15th).
The show also incorporates 30 prints by the political cartoonists Forges and El Roto, among others. There are a few donated paintings as well, including one given to the association by the attorney at the 11-M trial, Olga Sánchez.
One unique item in the exhibition is a letter written and donated by Luis Iriondo, a survivor of the Luftwaffe air raid against Gernika in 1937 – he was 13 at the time:
"And there came to us some men from other lands, who did not know us. Who did not even hate us because we hadn't done anything to them, but who did not see us the way we were. Because they were above and we were below. Had they been at our level, everyone on the ground, they would have seen that we were children just like the children back in their country, just like their own sons or daughters or little brothers or sisters. And that the women were just like their women, like their own mothers, wives or fiancées. But they did not see us that way. Possibly from their great height they saw us as ants running in despair. And we were unable to talk to each other. Men and ants cannot talk to one another. And they sent a rain of fire, shrapnel and death down on us. And they destroyed our village..."
We would have preferred a civil-style ceremony, rather than a Mass"
Next to this letter, in a different frame, is the reply sent by German president Roman Herzog in 1997: "I want to accept that past and expressly recognize the blame that falls to the German planes involved. I evoke the memory of those people who, that day in Gernika, had their happiness broken, their family ravaged, their homes destroyed..."
The exhibition is part of a series of tributes organized on the 10th anniversary of the Madrid attacks, although Manjón explains: "I don't like to use the word anniversary, it sounds like we have something to celebrate. Some of the murderers are about to walk out of jail, yet our children are not coming back, and they never will be."
The association president is referring to Rafa Zohuier, who will have served his full jail term at Puerto II penitentiary in Cádiz by March 16. "We have filed a request with the Interior Ministry for him to be immediately returned to his country of origin, Morocco, as soon as he is out of jail. The law contemplates two requisites: being guilty of serious crimes and creating social alarm. I think both criteria are met in this case."
Association representatives will also attend a Mass to be held on March 11 in memory of the victims. Several members of the royal family, including the king and queen, are scheduled to be there. Manjón is not happy about the nature of the event, however, explaining that she would have preferred a civil ceremony. “That would have been more appropriate, because not all of the victims are Catholic,” she explains. “In the association, around a third are immigrants who are not [Catholic], and so we would have preferred a civil-style ceremony, but we will be there for the unity of the victims.”
Other tributes will be held at the scenes of the massacre: the train stations of Atocha, Téllez, Santa Eugenia and El Pozo. Another victims association, AVT, is holding its main tribute in Retiro Park at noon.